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'Frankie' a quiet treasure

Category: Dear Frankie Reviews
Article Date: May 27, 2005 | Publication: The Grand Rapids Press | Author: John Douglas

Posted by: admin

With "Dear Frankie," I discovered a director whose next film I will want to see. Scottish director Shona Auerbach's first feature film is "Dear Frankie," a wonderful movie about the love between a mother and son.

There is a very daring moment is this film and it, along with the quality of the entire movie, made me hope "Dear Frankie" will not be Auerbach's only film. Rather than something shocking, the scene involves two characters who stare at each other for an extraordinarily long time.

All sorts of communication is going on, which the audience easily can sense. The danger with this kind of scene is if it is not done well, it will seem like a mistake and make the audience uncomfortable. The way the scene plays reminds me of the telephone-ringing scene in Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time In America," but this scene in "Dear Frankie" is far more subtle.

"Dear Frankie" is the story of a young, deaf boy named Frankie (Jack McElhone) who lives near poverty with his mother, Lizzie (Emily Mortimer), and his grandmother, Nell (Mary Riggans). Frankie's abusive father (Cal Macaninch) ran off and left him and his mother.

Lizzie told Frankie his father went to sea. She even sets up a system in which Frankie can write to his father and in which she can intercept the letters and answer them herself.

Then comes the day when the ship that Frankie's father is supposed to be on is scheduled to arrive in Glasgow, where Frankie and his mother live. So Lizzie sets about trying to find a man who can pose as Frankie's father.

Frankie has no real recollection of his father as he left the family when Frankie was very young. Lizzie finds her man (Gerard Butler), who agrees to play for a fee the role of the father for a day while the ship is in port.

All three of the characters, Lizzie, Frankie and the father are people with needs, and it would appear those needs could be met by forming a family unit. But this film does not go in easy directions. While the forming of a family would be an answer, this film does not make things easy that, in reality, would be difficult to accomplish.

"Dear Frankie" is a lovely film that presents characters who are very real. Jack McElhone, who plays Frankie, is an amazing talent able to create a charming young man without using dialogue. He is absolutely wonderful. Also impressive is Emily Mortimer as the mother dedicated to protecting her son at all costs to herself. She is a hero.

Gerard Butler, who plays the hired stranger, portrayed The Phantom in the film production of "The Phantom of the Opera." I didn't like Gerard in that flawed film, but I loved him in this one and can see why he was cast in that major motion picture.

After seeing him in "Dear Frankie," I don't blame him for the ineffectiveness of his character and the "The Phantom of the Opera" film. Butler was perfect in this film.

"Dear Frankie" is a worthy film to open the new incarnation of the Wealthy Theater, under the ownership of Community Media Center. If the other films scheduled to be shown here are even near as good as this one, the theater will be a treasure indeed.


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