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Monday, January 14, 2008:
"Dear Frankie" (2004) - movie review

Studio: Miramax
DVD Release Date: July 5, 2005
Run Time: 105 minutes
ASIN: B00094AS9A
Nine year-old Frankie and his mom, Lizzie, have been on the move ever since he can remember. To protect her son from the truth, Lizzie has invented a story to satisfy Frankie's curiosity. She regularly writes Frankie a letter from his make-believe father who works aboard a ship traveling to exotic lands. However, Lizzie soon finds out his father's ship will be arriving in a few days. Now, Lizzie must choose between telling Frankie the truth and hatching a desperate plan to find the perfect stranger to play the perfect father.

I saw this as a preview when I rented "On a Clear Day", and was immediately drawn to the idea of this movie and couldn't wait to watch it. Of course it doesn't hurt that Gerard Butler is in the film.

When the movie starts, Frankie (Jack McElhone), Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) and her mom are moving yet again. By this time, Frankie is so used to it, he seems to look upon it as just another adventure, while Lizzie and her mother worry that they have to keep running, wondering if it will ever end. On top of that, Frankie is deaf, and it makes Lizzie even more protective of her son.

Starting over at a new school is one of the struggles Frankie must face, and while being the new kid is difficult enough, he doesn't let that get him down. Frankie's a scrapper, and he's also smart and loves school. He can hold his own and doesn't back down from a challenge. One of Frankie's passions is the sea, from the ship like his father supposedly sails on to the marine life that exists beneath the surface, and he lovingly treasures every letter his "father" sends him, usually along with an exotic stamp from some far away land.

One day Frankie finds out that the ship is father is on, the Accra, will be docking where he lives. Lizzie is frantic, and her mother decides they must leave immediately. But Lizzie is tired of running, and makes a bold decision to find a man to pretend to be Frankie's father, just for the day. Her first effort ends in failure, and knowing she doesn't have much time, Lizzie realizes she needs help, so she confesses her situation to her new friend Marie, who happens to know someone who might be able to help her.

When Lizzie first meets the gruff, stoic "stranger" (Gerard Butler), she's not sure what she's gotten herself into, but he agrees to take the job and be Frankie's father for one day. Relieved yet anxious, Lizzie lets the stranger into her home and into her son's life, not realizing how this meeting will change them all, maybe most of all Lizzie, who has kept people, including her son, at arm's length for so long.

This movie is definitely a gem of a film, simple, sturdy, and not spoiled by an overly sweet happy ending. I've mentioned before how I love Scotland (i.e. my obsession with the Loch Ness monster) and the accents of the people. Here, as in "On a Clear Day", we once again see Glasgow as the port city it is, industrial with hardworking people of the middle class.

I liked how the characters "fit", and how the actors and actresses were so suited for their specific role. Emily Mortimer seems frail and ethereal, but her driving force is her love for her son, and she'll do whatever she must to protect him. Jack McElhone is a child with such expression in his face, yet also has that naughty boy quality that most kids his age would have, and while his character loves his mother dearly, he is also stubborn and independent and determined to do things his way. Gerard Butler, while undeniably gorgeous, does a wonderful job of playing the role of a rugged, working class man who sails on a ship and keeps to himself, yet is touched by Frankie and the good life he has despite what he's lost. It's obvious his character is not used to children, but his awkward behavior is fitting for the role of Frankie's absent father, and as the two get to know one another, he opens up more to the young boy, which prompts him to ask for another day of being "his dad", something maybe he needs even more than Frankie does.


SPOILER: there is no fairytale ending here; Gerard doesn't sweep Lizzie off her feet and they all of a sudden become a happy family. But there are sweet moments, such as how we see that Jack is just as protective of his mother as she is of him, and how the kindness of a stranger can bring a family closer together, and there's also that hope of possibility that maybe one day.... I'll let you draw your own conclusions on that. Now you'll just have to see the movie.

Rating: ***** out of *****

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  1. Great review, Stace! I haven't seen this one, but I'll definitely look for it.

    Glad to see the reviewing drought is overwith.

  2. I quite liked this movie. I saw a preview for it (forget which movie I was watching) and put in my netflix queue. Gerard Butler was very solid and had that quiet somber appeal that reminded me of an old film star. I like to rewrite a more HEA ending in my mind. *g*

  3. I’ll have to watch this one. It end to stay away from movies that don’t have a HEA, but this one sounds good.

    Great review

  4. I think I need to rewatch this movie. LOL I was underwhelmed when I saw it when it first came out. Maybe because it didn't end with the HEA. Maybe that's what it was...

  5. I think with non-American films, I'm used to not expecting the HEA, but there was still that kernel of hope. I re-watched it last night and enjoyed it even more, because I was able to pay more attention to details.

  6. I need to watch more movies that aren't animated.

    I haven't even heard of this one but will add it to my Netflix.

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