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Category: Dear Frankie Reviews
Article Date: June 28, 2005 | Publication: Scripps Howard News Service | Author: MIKE PEARSON

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("Dear Frankie." Miramax. DVD. 106 min. Rated PG-13. $29.99. In stores July 5. Grade: B+.)

"Dear Frankie" is the sort of film that would never have been made by an American studio. It's too warm, too sweet _ too devoid of explosions.

Start with the bittersweet premise: For years, Lizzie Morrison (Emily Mortimer), the mother of a deaf 9-year-old named Frankie, has been writing letters to her son pretending to be his merchant-seaman father. Frankie writes back, of course, and Lizzie answers. She has been doing it for years, regaling Frankie with Dad's exotic travels, never dreaming that the ship whose name she made up would one day dock in the town where they live.

How to grant her son his wish to meet his father when the dad he imagines isn't real? She decides to hire an itinerant seaman (Gerard Butler) to play the boy's pop for a day. Who knew a bond would form between them? Who knew that she would fall for him, too?

Andrea Gibb's understated script and Shona Auerbach's restrained direction make "Dear Frankie" a quietly powerful film. Mortimer strikes just the right balance of devotion to her son and fear. Butler, last seen in "The Phantom of the Opera," moves at just the right pace from gruff skeptic _ in it for the money _ to loner who finds a family.

At the center of it all is Jack McElhone, whose graceful performance holds the story together. His Frankie may be deaf, but he's no pushover.

There are complications, of course (will Frankie's real father surface at some point?), and the music tends to overwhelm some scenes. Yet, you come away from "Dear Frankie" knowing you've seen something special, not in your head, but in your heart.


(Mike Pearson is entertainment editor at the Rocky Mountain News,


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