Dear Frankie

Category: Dear Frankie Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: May 21, 2004 | Publication: ScreenDaily.Com | Author: Peter Brunette
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It is unfortunate, but Dear Frankie is a perfectly good film that tells a story which has been seen too many times before. It is the eternal search of the child for a missing parent, accompanied by poverty and a curmudgeonly grandparent with a heart of gold.

That said, Dear Frankie, which is set in a Scottish town on the coast, does contain some powerful moments and a few unique touches. Most importantly though, generally superior acting, along with the powerful physical presence of child actor Jack McElhone, rescue a so-so script from oblivion. The film, which premiered in Un Certain Regard, should be the beneficiary of a theatrical release in most territories, as well as success in ancillary markets.

Like Valentin in the recent Argentinian film of the same name, who was cross-eyed, the nine-year-old Frankie (McElhone) features a handicap, this time deafness.

In a nice twist, the unfolding tale is told in a voiceover - almost the only time we hear Frankieís voice. His plucky mum Lizzie (Mortimer) regularly moves him and his grandmother, as we eventually learn, to keep the family from the clutches of Frankieís abusive father. Because Frankie longs so powerfully for a dad, Lizzie regularly sends him letters, as his rogue father, detailing his life as a sailor and spinning colourful tales of travels.

When a ship, coincidentally bearing the same name as the ship Lizzie has imagined for Frankieís dad, docks in town, Frankieís bullying classmate (yes, a stock in trade for a film like this) bets Frankie that his dad wonít show up.

Desperate to keep her sonís imaginary world from collapsing, Lizzie goes so far as to convince a stranger to pretend to be Frankieís father, with predictable and emotionally powerful consequences.

An interesting piece of side plotting is that the more Lizzie gets Frankie interested in this fabricated world, the more she drives him to idolise his father and resent her. At one point she screams at him in frustration: ďIím the one thatís still here!Ē

Even better are the scenes related to the choice of the fatherís stand-in and his subsequent meeting with Frankie. Gerard Butler as The Stranger is not particularly good when he has lines to deliver later on in the film, but earlier as the strong, silent type he is forceful enough.

Every member of the audience will be on the edge of their chair in the scene in which Frankie meets him for the first time. Will Frankie fall for the ruse or not?

Aside from the familiarity of the characters and the situation, the film is also hampered by some inconsistencies in the plot and characterisation. Furthermore, near the end, first-time director Shona Auerbach reveals some nervousness about her material and moves toward full-blown melodrama with, yes, even a deathbed scene in a hospital.

Still, while Dear Frankie contains little interest for a sophisticated art film crowd, most audiences will throw such learned scruples to the wind and emotionally connect with this well-executed film.

Prod co: Scorpio Films
Intíl sales: Pathe
Exec prods: Stephen Evans, Angus Finney, Francois Ivernel, Cameron McCracken, Duncan Reid
Prod: Caroline Wood
Scr: Andrea Gibb
Cine: Shona Auerbach
Ed: Oral Nottie Ottey
Music: Alex Heffes
Main cast: Emily Mortimer, Jack McElhone, Sharon Small, Gerard Butler