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Dear Frankie

Category: Dear Frankie Reviews
Article Date: April 15, 2005 | Publication: The Arizona Republic | Author: Bill Muller
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Dear Frankie may drag a few tears out of you, but it's not like the makers of this British drama are playing fair.

Consider Frankie himself. An adorable deaf child who lives with his single Scottish mom, Frankie (Jack McElhone) writes letters to his dad, who's supposedly serving aboard a ship. But it's really his mother, Lizzie (Emily Mortimer), who reads and answers the notes, telling Frankie all about life at sea.

To manipulate us further, Frankie is shown plotting the course of his dad's ship on a world map on the wall of his room. His mother's trickery works fine until Frankie sees a newspaper article announcing the imminent arrival of the ship - which exists, only without Frankie's dad aboard.

Caught in a bind, Mom hires a stranger (Gerard Butler) to pose as Frankie's dad, whom Frankie doesn't remember (he was very young when his father left home).

If this story doesn't make you sniffle a little, you may want to check for a heart. But the game is fixed. Given the circumstances of Dear Frankie, the audience is forced to feel bad, and pity isn't the world's best story driver.

Everyone in Dear Frankie has noble goals. Mom is protecting Frankie (as is Grandma), and even Lizzie's new friend, Marie (Sharon Small), helps by finding the stranger. (Lizzie agrees to the arrangement only after Marie vouches for the guy).

The only evildoer is the absent father, who apparently is enough trouble that Lizzie and her mom (Mary Riggans) keep moving to avoid him.

Although the stranger - the only way he's described - is standoffish at first, he develops a fondness for Frankie (who wouldn't?), and we're left wondering whether they'll all end up munching fish and chips in front of the telly.

Dear Frankie reveals some secrets too early, but information about what happened to Frankie's real dad is withheld until the end. Given the rest of the story, you can probably guess.

Butler (The Phantom of the Opera) gives an understated, accomplished performance as the stranger, showing potential to be the next breakout British star (he's Scottish), and Mortimer (Lovely & Amazing, Young Adam) is every bit his equal.

McElhone (Young Adam) is as lovable as they come. He's saddled with a major part of the story - and has to pretend to be deaf - but handles the job with relative ease. We'll probably be seeing more of him.

So the film works as a highlight tape for the cast and will satisfy any desire you have to be driven to the brink of tears. It's just that those tears aren't honestly earned by Dear Frankie.

 


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