Dear Frankie goes to Hollywood ;Acclaim for simple family drama shot in Greenock

Category: Dear Frankie News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: May 19, 2004 | Publication:
The Herald (Glasgow) | Author: Hannah Mcgill At Cannes And Phil Miller
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HOLLYWOOD has embraced a low-budget Scottish film about a deaf boy from Greenock - in contrast to British reviewers who dismissed it as sentimental.

Film reviewers from Hollywood, where Dear Frankie has already won a major distribution deal, loved the simple tale. In contrast, at its press screening on Monday at the Cannes film festival, some British reviewers walked out.

David Rooney, a critic for Variety magazine, which is perceived as the Hollywood bible, praised the film's "stirring poignancy, warmth and emotional insight".

He also noted its "strong but not impenetrable Scottish accents".

The film had its debut at the Tribeca film festival in New York in April, and has been bought for international distribution by Miramax, with Pathe handling its UK release. Its strong reception at Cannes will vindicate those companies and their faith in its future.

The more serious-minded British critics, however, were less disposed than their American counterparts to respond positively to the film's sentimentality. In typically huffy Cannes style, they voted with their feet.

The film, Scotland's only film in competition at the festival, was directed by Shona Auerbach and written by Andrea Gibb.

While the film may have divided the critics, it was an unmitigated hit at its first public showing in Cannes yesterday, where it won a 15-minute standing ovation.

Shot in Greenock and Glasgow, the film is showing in the festival's Un Certain Regard section and is eligible for the prestigious Camera d'Or prize.

Screen International was a little more reserved in its praise, but noted "superior acting" and predicted a healthy commercial future.

Indeed, Peter Brunette, of Screen International, perhaps summed up the mood of other Cannes critics with the observation that "Dear Frankie contains little interest for the sophisticated arthouse crowd".

Starring Emily Mortimer, Gerard Butler, Sharon Small, and Jack McElhone, it is a low-budget, muted family melodrama which follows the efforts of a single mother to conceal harsh truths from Frankie, her deaf son.

As far as the boy is concerned, his absent father is away at sea, remaining in touch by way of tender letters.

In reality, Frankie's protective mother Lizzie is writing the letters, in the hope that Frankie will never find out that she

is on the run from her violent ex-husband.

When Frankie makes a bet with a classmate that his father will show up to support him at a local football match during his shore leave, Lizzie finds she must escalate her deception.

Dear Frankie's press screening on Monday was affected by patchy attendance - it suffered from being programmed after Michael Moore's incendiary Fahrenheit 9/11, while Moore's eminently newsworthy press conference was still under way.

Journalists following the adrenaline rush of Moore's film were hardly in the mood for a gentle, simple drama.

In direct contrast to last year's Scottish Cannes hit Young Adam, which held more charm for intellectual cinema fans than for popular audiences, Dear Frankie looks set to crowd-please rather than wow the critics.

Auerbach is certainly experienced in taking the popular pulse, having worked for the past six years primarily as a director of advertisements. The 36-year -old lives in England with her husband and young family.

Unusually, Auerbach also acted as director of photography on Dear Frankie, and its elegant visual style is one of its most striking elements.

In sharp contrast to Ken Loach's harrowing Sweet Sixteen, which premiered in Cannes two years ago, Dear Frankie bathes the Greenock landscape in an almost romantic glow.

"The story really moved me, and I have felt very passionate about it ever since," Auerbach said yesterday.

She also said that since the rare coup of getting her debut film into Cannes, she is sorting through a number of scripts, and is keen to make "a contemporary tragic love story".

With the all-powerful Miramax and the most weighty of American industry opinion -makers behind her, Auerbach is unlikely to lose sleep over the odd negative response.

Another new British film is to claim that Brian Jones, the Rolling Stones guitarist, was murdered.

The Wild and Wycked World of Brian Jones will put forward the theory that the 27-year-old, found dead in the pool of his Sussex mansion in 1969, was murdered by Frank Thorogood, an East End builder.

Copyright 2004 Scottish Media Newspapers Limited