Thursday, May 22, 2008

Film Review: Dear Frankie

“Dear Frankie” is one of those extremely satisfying small films that often get lost in the crush of the major motion picture distribution machine. How do you market a film that does not boast A-list stars, a multi-million dollar budget, car chases, wars, police dramas, historical sagas or monsters of either the human or alien kind? This film stars Emily Mortimer (“Bright Young Things,” “Young Adam,”) and Gerard Butler (“Phantom of the Opera,” “Timeline,” “Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life,” “Dracula 2000”) in lyrical performances that both entertain and touch the heart. Lizzie (played by Mortimer) is a single mother with a nine year old son named Frankie. Frankie has grown up believing that his absent father is a seaman assigned to the HMS Accra. Frankie has been writing letters to his Dad for years, and Lizzie has been reading and replying to Frankie’s letters. Frankie is deaf and is not a particularly communicative child, so Lizzie depends upon the letters to provide insight into what is going on in her child’s mind. Lizzie has fostered the lie about Frankie’s father in order to protect her son from the truth, but when Frankie learns that the HMS Accra is scheduled to dock in the small village where he and his mother currently live, Frankie is thrilled by the idea of a reunion with his father, while Lizzie is horrified by her predicament. Convinced that telling Frankie the truth will destroy their relationship, Lizzie decides to pay a stranger to play the part of Frankie’s father for the brief duration of the visit. The stranger (played by Butler) is somewhat judgmental about Lizzie in the beginning, but he quickly bonds with Frankie and as he learns the reasons behind the lengths to which Lizzie has gone to protect her son, he finds himself being drawn into their lives. “Dear Frankie” employs sentiment in moderation, so it’s not a cloying film, and the quality of the acting makes the characters multi-dimensional, even edgy, with a human heart.

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