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Frankie is a Story Dear to the Heart

Category: Dear Frankie Reviews
Article Date: April 15, 2005 | Publication: WINNIPEG SUN | Author: Bruce Kirkland
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In a seen-it-all world of cinema, the Scottish film Dear Frankie stands out as a fresh, original way to explore the human condition. While the film is remarkable for its subtle, finely honed performances, it is screenwriter Andrea Gibb's story that first jumps out.

A loving mother with a dark past (Emily Mortimer) moves her son (Jack McElhone) to a new town, along with the skeptical grandmother (Mary Riggans).

The boy Frankie is deaf. But the biggest disabilities in the saga are emotional, not physical, and it is the adults who suffer them.

The mother is thrown for a loop when her son finds out the freighter his long-lost sailor father supposedly serves on is heading into harbour. That is when we discover that mom has been writing letters the boy thinks are from his father. She is protecting his son from a sad truth.

To solve the crisis, mom decides to hire a total stranger (Gerard Butler) to serve as dad for a day, armed with info from the letters.

This decision will have startling results as the story unfolds slowly yet elegantly, like a flower blossoming. There is something so beautiful and organic about the piece you might find yourself crying, in both sorrow and happiness.

Mortimer is splendid as the mom, infusing her character with a balance of mystery and openness that keeps us close to her without knowing too much too soon. Butler says little and communicates with a quiet, dignified performance that lets the audience identify with his character -- and forgive Butler for the ghastly film of The Phantom of the Opera.

McElhone never overplays the deafness, nor the angst, of his character. Director Shona Auerbach obviously has a beautiful way with child actors, even though this is her directorial debut.

Auerbach also worked as her own cinematographer, and Dear Frankie is shot with a keen eye for the stark beauty of the shipyards and the working-class people.

I eagerly want to talk about the emotional ending of the film, with its wrenching revelations. But that would spoil it for you. Go to the film. Just don't leave early.

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DEAR FRANKIE

Starts today @ Grant Park & Polo Park.

Sun Rating: 4 out of 5

 


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