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Dear Frankie (12A) ****

Category: Dear Frankie Reviews
Article Date: January 19, 2005 | Publication: The Scotsman | Author: film critic
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Directed by: Shona Auerbach
Starring: Emily Mortimer, Gerald Butler, Jack McElhone

YOU might have heard about Dear Frankie. It’s the little Scottish film no-one wanted to make that became one of the hits of last year’s Cannes film festival, where it reportedly received a 15-minute standing ovation.

That reaction was perhaps a little over-the-top for a film that’s hardly breaking any new ground, but that’s not to say Dear Frankie is undeserving of our attention.

In its own quiet way it’s a bit of a gem, the kind of film that is heart-warming without being overly sentimental, and which offers its lead actors the chance to shine in an understated way. Chief among these is Emily Mortimer. Here she plays Lizzie Morrison, a single mum with a deaf nine-year-old son, Frankie (Jack McElhone), whom she protects from a violent past by telling him his absent father is away at sea. In order to keep up the pretence, she pens him fake letters detailing his adventures, a plan that backfires when the ship she has been writing about turns out to be real and, even worse, about to dock in their new hometown.

To avoid telling Frankie the truth, then, she recruits a tall dark stranger (Gerald Butler) to pretend to be his dad. Sounds like the stuff of TV melodrama, doesn’t it? Thankfully it all works beautifully.

A perceptive script ensures Lizzie’s dilemma is never trivialised: she’s in agony about her need to shield Frankie, but is also constantly aware that she’s deceiving him, which could ultimately be more damaging. Mortimer captures that quiet despair and she’s complemented by fantastic turns from McElhone and Butler.

The film also looks great, with first-time director Shona Auerbach giving her Scottish locations a painterly quality that distinguishes Dear Frankie from the usual harsh images we’ re used to seeing. All in all a very promising debut.

 


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