Dear Frankie Review

Category: Dear Frankie Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: June 22, 2004 | Publication: Premiere.Com | Author: Laine Ewen
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In the scorching hot summer-movie season, Dear Frankie is like a refreshing burst of cool sea air. Amidst the grand epics, big-budget actioners, animation blockbusters, and effects-laden sequels, Miramax brings us a small yet lovely film about normal people struggling to overcome adversity.

The film centers on the Morrison family. Emotionally exhausted mother Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) spends her life in flux, moving her mom (Mary Riggans) and deaf son, Frankie (Jack McElhone), from town to town at regular intervals. Though she believes her abusive ex-husband to be dead, Lizzie has spent many years writing letters to Frankie in the guise of her ex. The father she creates for Frankie is quite unlike the real man; Lizzie's version is a kind, compassionate sailor who travels the world, imparting his tales of the sea to his beloved son. Frankie sends letters to his "dad" via a post office box, which Lizzie then collects and responds to herself. Despite her mother's concern, Lizzie is content to live the lie—content, that is, until a ship sails into their seaside town bearing the same name as the ship of Frankie's faux-father. Lizzie decides to hire a stranger (Gerard Butler) to play dad for a day; but instead of solving the family's problems, the man's presence only stirs up a wave of new emotions.

The scope of Dear Frankie may seem narrow, but the film's impact is profound. Whereas other movies of the genre are contrived bits of sentimentality with whiny music and histrionic dialogue, Dear Frankie feels genuine and true. Just when you think the movie will veer toward the sappy, the actors guide the film back onto the right course. Mortimer (Lovely and Amazing) gives a subtle yet compelling performance as a woman whose desire to be a responsible mother clashes with her desire to communicate with her deaf son. McElhone, who appeared with Mortimer in 2003's Young Adam, delivers a moving—mostly silent—performance, though his voice-over is a wee bit hard to understand for the non-Scottish. And Butler (Lara Croft Tomb Raider, Timeline) brings mystery and compassion to his role as a man who is reluctant to participate in the farce, yet finds himself drawn to this fragile family—and the heart beating beneath its wounded exterior.