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A mother's love knows no bounds

Category: Dear Frankie Reviews
Article Date: March 4, 2005 | Publication: New York Daily News | Author: Reviewer
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DEAR FRANKIE. With Emily Mortimer, Gerard Butler, Jack McElhone. Director Shona Auerbach. (1:45) At Angelika, Lincoln Square. PG: Language.

It sounds like the scenario for a sitcom: Single mother of deaf kid pays stranger to be father for a day - entanglements ensue.

"Dear Frankie" does have its mildly comic side. There's a disapproving grandmother and a bumbling "date" between mother and hired husband.

Mostly, though, it is a sweet, wonderfully acted cameo of a movie about the lengths to which a lioness will go to protect her cub.

And what a cub. Jack McElhone plays the deaf 9-year-old with remarkable presence and sensitivity, his face crossed with sudden clouds like the coastal Scottish town where mother and son have temporarily perched.

You can't go wrong with Emily Mortimer in any role. She plays the mother, Lizzie, as defensive yet protective, keeping young Frankie's illusion going by writing him letters as if from the father he can't remember.

When the ship on which his father is supposed to serve suddenly docks at port, Frankie expects to see his long-lost dad. Lizzie gives what cash she can afford to a craggy, nameless stranger, who for one paid day takes the kid for a treat and teaches him to skip stones.

The stranger is played by Gerard Butler, and if he had bothered to take his mask off in the recent movie version of "Phantom of the Opera," you would have seen some seriously tall, dark and handsome charisma, the kind that fuels the romance-novel industry.

It's not hard to see where all this is going, except perhaps for a poignant surprise at the end. But this miniature of selfless love and renewal is worth that small price.

 


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