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'Dear Frankie' a letter-perfect drama about mother, son

Category: Dear Frankie Reviews
Article Date: June 6, 2004 | Publication: Moira Macdonald; Seattle Times movie critic | Author: The Seattle Times

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Last week at SIFF, the comedy "Touch of Pink" turned out to be a sweet story about the love between a mother and her son. Now, Shona Auerbach's wistful drama "Dear Frankie" (11 a.m., Cinerama), from Scotland, provides another variation on that theme. Nine-year-old Frankie (Jack McElhone) lives in a seaside town with his mum Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) and grandmother. A deaf child who lip-reads "like a champ," he writes letters to his absent father, not knowing that it's Lizzie who answers them.

Family secrets eventually emerge, as does a helpful stranger (Gerard Butler) but Auerbach, a first-time director, deftly avoids sentimentality. Andrea Gibb's screenplay often achieves a kind of lyricism, particularly when Lizzie answers, in a brief and perfect sentence, the question of why she has continued with the deception. (I won't destroy for you the pleasure and surprise of Mortimer's reading of that line. Know, though, that it will touch your heart.) "Dear Frankie" never quite goes where we think it's going, but by the end, we realize that Auerbach has taken us exactly where we wanted to go.


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