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Showing the theme of life through the soul of a child

Category: Dear Frankie Reviews
Article Date: March 25, 2005 | Publication: Daily Trojan Online | Author: Katharine Chang

Posted by: admin

When the 'fictional' ship comes to town, Frankie's mother has to face the truth.

Every once in a while, American audiences are fortunate to see a little foreign film with a whole lot of heart and character. Actually, it is more like they are fortunate to see a foreign film with so much to offer besides random experimental abstractions, overzealous violence and, of course, raunchy sexual tendencies.

With that said, Miramax Films has brought forth a true gem of a film from Great Britain titled "Dear Frankie."

The first major feature film for director Shona Auerbach and writer Andrea Gibb, "Dear Frankie" is a story about a single mother, Lizzie (Emily Mortimer), keeping a major secret from her young deaf son Frankie (Jack McElhone).

Lizzie has been writing letters to Frankie for several years posing as his father, whom she has defined as a sailor away at sea on the "make believe" ship HMS Accra. But it is all a fictitious cover-up to conceal the painful truth from Frankie.

One day, however, Lizzie is stunned to hear the "fictional" ship Frankie's father is aboard will be docking in their town in a week's time. Frankie is excited, while Lizzie worries about choosing between telling him the truth and finding a temporary father figure.

Lizzie decides to hire a Stranger (Gerard Butler) to pose as Frankie's father, and what ensues is a truly heartfelt day-in-the-life-of a bright young boy and his dream come true.

Mortimer shines with a subdued fire, but she speaks loudest through her childlike eyes. During a scene when Lizzie catches Frankie and his friend snooping through her closet, Mortimer spellbinds with a woman's rage, while affecting with a mother's depth of heart. Lizzie yells with such anger and fury within the moment, but we later see her linger in regret, which Mortimer delivers with delicate poignancy.

Newcomer McElhone is masterful in his unforgettable presence as the title character. He carries an angelic beam of light everywhere he goes, and Frankie becomes the boy you wish you knew as a child.

Auerbach has constructed a refreshing little film that bears a theme of life within the soul of a young child. It is impossible to leave the theater untouched by the priceless characters who each have something to teach.

Even the Stranger assumes a moral position that carries a responsibility to both the audience and Frankie. The end pay-offs are nothing short of touching.

There is nothing exquisite or intrinsically impressive about how "Dear Frankie" gets our attention and keeps it. There is nothing showy or flamboyant here. It is only a few darling characters within a tender little picture. Somehow through gentle craft and sensitive directing comes a precious love letter of a film fondly sent to us, the ever-grateful members of the audience.


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