Dear Frankie

Category: Dear Frankie Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: May 18, 2004 | Publication: The Hollywood Reporter | Author: Ray Bennet
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Scottish screenwriter Andrea Gibb is on a roll with "Dear Frankie," a gem of a picture that, like her Edinburgh Film Festival success "AfterLife," has flinty characters dealing with everyday hardships who are suddenly faced with a predicament of their own making.

First-time director Shona Auerbach, a photographer who has been successful making commercials, leaves the slick surfaces of that world behind to craft a deeply felt human drama that she also shot beautifully. With Miramax International at the helm, a film that derives much from a sense of geography and seamanship should travel well.

Emily Mortimer and Jack McElhone, who both appeared last year in "Young Adam," here are mother and son in the port town of Greenock, where they have fled once again to escape the grasp of her ex-husband. The boy, Frankie, is deaf and can barely speak but he wasn't born that way. It was "a present from daddy," as his mother, Lizzie, puts it. But he's a very bright boy, intelligent and quick. He also has the kind of resolve that allows him to make a friend out of a cocky kid sitting next to him in class who scrawls "Def Boy" on the desk. Frankie smiles and corrects his spelling.

The lad is unaware of his mother's fears; he just wishes they would settle down somewhere. Lizzie has told him that his dad is a sailor on a ship named Accra and Frankie writes to him diligently, tracking his travels on a huge wall map. He doesn't know that his letters go only so far as his mother, who writes back letters as if they were from his father.

It goes well until one day they learn that a ship named Accra is headed for Greenock. Frankie's school friend makes him a bet that his dad won't want to see him. It's a bet Frankie can't turn down and it leaves his mum with a huge dilemma.
Enter a tall, dark stranger, but in the sure hands of Gibb and Auerbach, this Scottish sailor (Gerard Butler) is not quite the nameless man with no history that Lizzie has in mind, and his stint pretending to be Frankie's dad leads to many more complications.

The potential for sickly sentiment is high with all these ingredients but there is nothing mawkish about the film at all. The beautiful Mortimer appealingly understates her glamour. She and a sterling cast including Mary Riggans as her mother and Sharon Small as a new friend, all bring steel to their characters. McElhone shines in the difficult task of acting with an affliction and he doesn't put a foot wrong. Butler ("Tomb Raider 2") downplays his movie star presence to play a man of quiet mystery and strength.

The movie is filled with small moments of tenderness, insight and considerable wisdom such as when Lizzie says she thought Frankie would give up on writing to his dad but she's glad he didn't. "It's the only way I can hear his voice," she says.

DEAR FRANKIE
Presented by Miramax Films & Pathe Pictures in association with the UK Film Council and Scottish Screen. A Scorpio Films Production in association with Sigma Films. Produced in association with Inside Track Productions.

Credits: Director and cinematographer: Shona Auerbach; Screenwriter: Andrea Gibb; Producer: Caroline Wood; Co-producers: Gillian Berrie, Matthew T. Gannon; Executive producers: Stephan Evans, Angus Finney, Francois Ivernel, Cameron McCracken, Duncan Reid; Production designer: Jennifer Kernke; Editor: Oral Norrie Ottey; Original music: Alex Heffes; Costume designer: Carole K. Millar. Cast: Lizzie: Emily Mortimer; Frankie: Jack McElhone; Stranger: Gerard Butler; Marie: Sharon Small, Nell: Mary Riggans, Catriona: Jayd Johnson, Ricky Monroe: Sean Brown.

No MPAA rating,
running time 105 minutes