Dear Frankie
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Shona Auerbach
scr Andrea Gibb
with Emily Mortimer, Jack McElhone, Gerard Butler, Sharon Small, Mary Riggans, Sean Brown, Jayd Johnson, John Kazek, Anne Marie Timoney, Cal Macaninch, Katy Murphy, Anna Hepburn
release UK 21.Jan.05, US 4.Mar.05
04/UK 1h43

Family matters: Butler, McElhone and Mortimer

mortimer butler
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Dear Frankie This moving Scottish drama has a strongly emotional punch that, nicely, never turns sappy or sentimental at all. Lizzie (Mortimer) is on the run again, moving with her 9-year-old son Frankie and her cantankerous mother (Riggans) to a new flat so her ex doesn't find them. Lizzie is extremely protective of the deaf and extremely bright Frankie. She's told him that his dad is working on a ship, so when the ship unexpectedly comes to dock in Glasgow, Frankie is thrilled to meet a man he can't remember at all. In a panic, Lizzie hires a stranger (Butler) to pose as Frankie's dad. But there are all kinds of wrinkles.

Beautifully filmed and written with sensitivity and honesty, this is a thoroughly involving film that really digs into the inner lives of its characters. Each one is a bundle of complex insecurities, secrets and hopefulness--the kind of people we can really identify with. And the cast is excellent. McElhone (Young Adam) is a fine young actor who gives Frankie a thorough internal life--it's no mean feat that we're drawn to this strange young boy without ever feeling a whiff of pity. His deafness is simply never an issue! Meanwhile, Mortimer gives Lizzie a dignity that shines through her fragility and over-protectiveness. And Butler is wonderful as the stranger who opens up this family in unexpected ways.

It's rare that a film can make us cry (more than once) without ever feeling sentimental. Auerbach orchestrates the characters and situations perfectly, maintaining a thoughtful, emotional and bittersweet tone, while filling the scenes with earthy humour and flashes of sharp personality. She's unafraid to let a scene flow in utter silence, building strong subtext without ever being obvious about it. And Gibb's script is equally subtle and provocative. Supporting characters are all vivid and strong enough that we get a real feel for them--from Lizzie's best pal (Small) and the strong-willed gran (Riggans) to Frankie's hilarious school friends (Brown and Johnson). This is beautiful, complex, deeply engaging filmmaking. Don't miss it.

cert 15 themes, language, innuendo 3.Jun.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall