'Dear Frankie' Is Delicate Scottish Gem

Category: Dear Frankie Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 11, 2005 | Publication: WPBF News | Author: Debra Scott
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Emily Mortimer Glows In Maternal Role

'Dear Frankie' (PG-13) Popcorn rating Popcorn ratingPopcorn rating three(out of four popcorns)

Emily Mortimer is one of those actresses who you know her face, and she has a large list of film credits to her name, but you don't really identify her with any specific performance.

As Lizzie in "Dear Frankie," Mortimer may change all that. She glows from within as the young mother of a 9-year-old deaf boy named Frankie (Jack McElhone). She can't bear to let her son know what really happened to his dad, so she pretends he works on a ship traveling the world. Frankie writes to his dad and she intercepts the letters, writing back in the guise of his father.

When the ship on which Frankie's father is supposedly traveling is scheduled to come into the very port of the town where they are living, Lizzie gets inventive and hires a stranger (Gerard Butler) to act the part for one day to keep Frankie's illusions alive.

"Dear Frankie" could easily be a five-hankie tearjerker, but the actors' unsentimental and practical performances wring the appropriate amount of pathos without manipulating your emotions.

McElhone is a remarkable child actor who handles a role that could be difficult even for an adult.

The director, Shona Auerbach, is very inventive in the ways that Frankie communicates. Usually, he signs or gets his point across through body language. Occasionally he uses the hard-to-understand voice of a deaf child. But when you hear his thoughts, his voice is clear and expressive (within a strong Scottish brogue) -- almost as if in his own mind he does not have a disability. At times you forget that he is deaf. McElhone has a dry sense of humor, but also has the stubbornness seen in most children.

Gerard Butler, as the stranger who is never named, eventually warms up to the role of substitute father, but he almost doesn't pull it off because of his unemotional, stiff and distant demeanor. But when the ruggedly handsome Butler smiles, you understand why Frankie gets attached to him.

A special note should be made of Mary Riggans, who plays Lizzie's chain-smoking, gruff, but loving mother. She reminded me a lot of the no-nonsense performances of Brenda Fricker.

"Dear Frankie" is the rare film that touches your emotions, but doesn't wring them out to dry. The understated performances will resonate with you for some time to come.