Rough seas make for uplifting story in 'Dear Frankie'

Category: Dear Frankie Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 11, 2005 | Publication: Seattle Post-Intelligencer | Author: Paula Nechak
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This little gem of a Scottish film is the kind of story that can be told only in the movies. Despite the drudge and routine hum of small-town port life it portrays, it's just too well-intentioned to be true. Still, it finds an idealistic, hopeful humanity within its small scope and sly wonders.

MOVIE REVIEW
DEAR FRANKIE
DIRECTOR: Shona Auerbach
CAST: Emily Mortimer, Gerard Butler, Jack McElhone
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
RATING: PG-13 for language
WHERE: Uptown
GRADE: B

Lizzie Morrison (Emily Mortimer), her 9-year-old deaf son Frankie (Jack McElhone) and Lizzie's chain-smoking, pragmatic mom, Nell (Mary Riggans), are constantly on the move.

At first we think they're dodging the rent, but this family harbors deeper secrets. The boy, though smart and intuitive, writes letters to his absentee dad, away at sea, so he thinks. His mother is mum about their continual motion, and when dad's ship is scheduled to dock at their newest home port, Lizzie hatches a plan to protect him from the truth.

Mortimer has been teetering on the brink of stardom for some time. In "Dear Frankie," she gets a role that embraces her talent and gives her room to make Lizzie a flawed parent conflicted by guilt and the universal dilemma of relinquishing her protective hyper-vigilance and letting her son test his independence and learn to trust outside his small family.

The film is set in the autumnal dark of the Scottish coast and in a small town where everyone tries to help and secrets are impossible. The aid and resourcefulness of Lizzie's new-found friend, Marie (Sharon Small), and the stranger (Gerard Butler) who assists her in her plight, is never less than loving and they make a nice, safe counter to Lizzie's fears, frustrations and occasional overbearing self-righteousness.

Director Shona Auerbach never lets things get out of hand and keeps the action contained and intimate. As a result, the film tugs at us. And we forgive it its faults because it never loses sight of what it's supposed to be even though the story has a manipulative edge and maneuvers our feelings.