'Dear Frankie' nearly is letter perfect

Category: Dear Frankie Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 13, 2005 | Publication: Cleveland Plain Dealer | Author: Joanna Connors
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Frankie, the 9-year-old boy at the center of the sweet, enormously touching Scottish film "Dear Frankie," is deaf, mute and always the new kid in town. His mother, Lizzie (Emily Mortimer), has been uprooting him every few months since he was little, moving from city to city, house to house. The reason for this only emerges late in the film, but it has something to do with the letters Frankie receives from his father, a sailor who travels the world on a merchant ship.

Frankie does not remember his father, but he worships him. He plots his travels on a big wall map, and when he discovers his father's ship is going to dock soon in his new town, he's ecstatic.

His mother is not. She invented both the sailor-father and the travels, and she's been writing the letters all along, in part to protect Frankie from heartache, but also because she connects with him through his responses. To keep the fiction going, she decides to hire someone to "play" Frankie's father. When the stranger (Gerard Butler) shows up . . . things progress beyond what she expected.

Director Shona Auerbach takes her tone from the bleak Scottish climate, expertly using a muted palette of both colors and emotions to offset the story's sentimentality. The cast helps in the effort, too, especially young Jack McElhone as Frankie, who truly is dear.

2005 The Plain Dealer. Used without permission