Dear Frankie (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/01/2005

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 103 mins

Watchable drama with strong performances by Mortimer and McElhone that just about make up for the script’s dodgier moments.

Dear Frankie is the debut film from British director Shona Auerbach. It received a warm response at both the Cannes and Edinburgh Film Festivals last year and, despite its flaws, should prove something of a crowd-pleaser now that it’s finally getting a nationwide release. At any rate, Gerard Butler will be pleased, as his performance here is a thousand times better than his frankly laughable turn in The Phantom of the Opera.

Mother, Grandmother And Deaf Child On The RunP> The film is set in a small Scottish seaside town and stars Emily Mortimer as Lizzie, a single mother who frequently moves around the country, with her deaf nine year old son Frankie (Jack McElhone) and her mother, Nell (Mary Riggans) in tow.

Lizzie is desperate to protect Frankie from the truth – that they are actually on the run from the father he has never met – so she writes him several letters, pretending that his father is actually working on a ship. However, when Frankie discovers that the ship his dad is supposedly on is due to dock soon, Lizzie takes desperate measures and hires a stranger (Gerard Butler) to pretend to be the boy’s dad for a day…

Emily Mortimer has had a run of terrific supporting roles over the last few years in films such as Bright Young Things, Lovely and Amazing and Young Adam, so it’s nice to see her finally get a lead role. She’s extremely good here and is equally matched by young Jack McElhone, who gives a performance that is by turns touching and funny. Gerard Butler is also good as the proverbial Tall Dark Stranger (sort of), in a role that proves that he can act after all. There’s also strong support from Mary Riggans and from Sharon Small as Marie, Lizzie’s friend and chip shop-owning boss.

Detrimental Lack Of Sentimental Cliches

Aside from the likeable performances, the film has a couple of other things going for it too, principally that it never makes an issue out of Frankie’s deafness, but rather just lets him get on with his life. It also tries pretty hard to avoid the usual sentimental clichés, although this backfires towards the end when you realise that actually, a sentimental cliché would have been a better option.

Unfortunately, the film also has its fair share of flaws, most notably a “twist” regarding Butler’s true identity that ensures that the film collapses under even the most cursory post-film pub analysis. It also fails to adequately explain why Lizzie simply doesn’t tell Frankie the truth in the first place.

In short, Dear Frankie is an enjoyable film, despite several flaws that keep it from hitting the heights of more successful British movies and, for the most part, the performances are good enough to allow you to overlook the script’s problems. That said, it’s probably wise not to think about it too much afterwards. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 20/10/2017 18:56

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