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On a Clear Day
3.5/5
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Gaby Dellal
scr Alex Rose
with Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn, Jamie Sives, Billy Boyd, Sean McGinley, Ron Cook, Jodhi May, Anne Marie Timoney, Benedict Wong, Paul Ritter, Shaun Dingwall, Tony Roper
release UK 2.Sep.05;
US 7.Apr.06
05/UK Icon 1h39

Channel crossing: Boyd and friends

mullan blethyn sives

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On a Clear Day Yet another film in the Full Monty mould--about men seeking dignity and meaning after losing their jobs--this engaging film has a thoughtful, witty tone that makes it worth seeing even if it feels a bit simplistic.

Frank (Mullan) is a 55-year-old Glaswegian, made redundant when his shipyard closes. He's never recovered from the death of his son years ago, which has strained his relationship with his wife (Blethyn) and surviving son (Sives), who's now a father himself. His passion is swimming with his pals (Boyd, McGinley and Cook), so he hatches a secret plan to swim the English Channel, and to achieve something in a world that seems to have passed him by.

This is the kind of film that sinks or swims (sorry!) in its performances and in the filmmakers' ability to avoid syrupy sentiment. Fortunately, everyone maintains an open-hearted honesty while avoiding too much sap. When the emotion comes, the film has earned it, simply because the characters are so believable. Mullan, as always, finely captures Frank's shattered emptiness and tenacious pursuit of what looks like a pointless goal. And he's very strongly supported by the entire cast. Sives has the most interesting role, as a young man who can't escape the pain of his past and yet still loves life. And Boyd is good fun in the comic relief role, which is rather simplistically goofy but gives the film a badly needed shot of cheeky energy.

Director Dellal and cinematographer David Johnson shoot the film beautifully, skilfully catching the natural beauty. But the elegiac tone is almost undermined by corny TV-movie music and some wobbly editing that includes hokey montages and lots of whispy flashbacks. These are rather overdone and also annoyingly elusive, since Dellal and writer Rose take their time telling us exactly what happened to create all this familial tension. Fortunately, the central relationships--father and son, husband and wife--are strong enough to overcome this. And a willingness to let the characters be fairly unlikeable actually adds grit and verve to the film, and makes the final sequence surprisingly thrilling.

cert 12 themes, language, vulgarity 3.Jun.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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