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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 4 September 2005
Director Shona Auerbach and writer Andrea Gibbs put together a real winner with their 2004 release, "Dear Frankie," an intelligent and extremely poignant film which I have had on my "must see" list for some time. Powerful performances from an extraordinary ensemble cast of relatively unknown actors are one of the major elements which makes this movie so special. There are some profoundly moving moments here, and absolutely no manipulative sappiness.
Lizzie Morrison, (Emily Mortimer), her nine and a half year-old son, Frankie, (Jack McElhone ), and her chain-smoking mother Nell, (Mary Riggans), have moved to a small seaside town near Glasgow, Scotland, to elude Lizzie's husband, Frankie's father. They have been on the move now for nine years, never staying long in one place. The small family of three are held together by love, which is palpable, and also by a web of lies which were originally invented to protect their most vulnerable member, the child. Frankie, who is hearing impaired, believes his father is a merchant marine seaman and writes to him faithfully, tracking the progress of his ship, the Accra, as it travels the world.
In fact, the boy is really corresponding with his mother. Lizzie encourages him to write his dad and then she intercepts the letters, responds to them and mails them, often enclosing international postage stamps for the child's prized collection. Frankie's letters, and the one's from his "father" are mailed to a central PO box which Lizzie rents whenever they move to a new place.
Major problems surface when Frankie discovers that his dad's cargo ship, the Accra, (which really does exist, to Lizzie's great surprise), will be in port for a few days. He agonizes over whether his father will come to visit him. And Lizzie is besides herself with what to do. Marie, (Sharon Small), a new family friend, lends a helping hand in the form of a stranger - a sailor home on leave, played by Gerard Butler, who, for a fee, will stand in as dad for a day.
The movie was filmed in and around Glasgow and the grittiness of the city, the sea, dunes, the port and ships, and the distant hills create a somewhat melancholy atmosphere. The coming and going of vessels reminds one of the transience of people and places. The scenery is not unattractive, but it is far from the picture postcard version of Scotland one usually views. Although all the actors speak with a Scottish accent, I had no trouble understanding them, which is unusual.
Auerbach's pace is far from hurried. Alex Heffes's spare piano score is beautifully low-keyed and helps keep the emotion to scale. Mortimer is magnificent as Lizzie. She loves her son unconditionally, but in reality she has been given short shrift in her young life, and responsibilities, stress, and worry weigh her down. There is a moment when her face lights up gloriously, like a child's, when she hears a favorite song on a rare night out. My reaction was that it took so little to give her such joy. On another occasion, when she and Butler stand in the doorway, shy, wanting to kiss, tension builds, but quietly, before their lips finally touch. And there are unforgettable moments between mother and son. Bright-eyed Jack McElhone communicates so much with just a look or a gesture. And then there is Gerard Butler, who I would happily watch and listen to if he were reading the telephone book. He is simply the most charismatic leading man out there today.
The extras include a twelve minite audio commentary with director Shona Auerbach who presents good, cogent explanations of what she was was trying to accomplish in each scene. The nine-minute featurette, "The Story of Dear Frankie," includes the actors, producer, and director discussing the origins of the film and their roles in its production. There are also eight deleted scenes, with optional director commentary, etc.. English and French spoken languages are options as are Spanish subtitles, and English captions for the hearing impaired.
Overall, this is a film well worth seeing. Highly recommended!
JANA
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on 18 May 2005
Set in one of the grittier parts of an Inverclyde port on the Firth of Clyde (where it was filmed) this is an atmospheric if at times slow story depicting the cruel world of single-parenthood, the value of friendship and the importance of the family. The production is totally engaging as it carefully and strategically embroils the viewer in the domestic lives of mother Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) and nine year old son Frankie (Jack McElhone). If ever you wondered what lengths a mother would go to to bring happiness to her offspring Dear Frankie convincingly takes you there, draws a few tears along the way and then warms your heart ready for another breaking as you see the fruits of her toiled labour. The movie builds to illustrate that the pursuit of wellbeing through protection of a child from the truth and the perceived importance of the conventional family unit can be more dangerous than just plain simple honesty. The scene in the chip shop where Frankie proudly and cheerily proclaims the relationship between himself and his companion to the waitress is a highly memorable moment that succeeds in the dichotomy of tears of joy in a way that rarely translates effectively on the screen.
The story unfolds in emotionally difficult turns without ever flinching, flagging or losing confidence in either itself or the controversial subject matter. This is achieved by superb casting and wonderfully robust performances all round where the spoken word is often of secondary importance to the subtler atmospheric facets of each interpersonal relationship. The material in terms of contemporary sociology is totally relevant and as such Dear Frankie is a worthy British (Scottish) film which is thought-provoking, intelligent and real. Whilst some of the "solutions" Lizzie reaches maybe unlikely, it should not detract from the underlying message which is nothing more instinctive and fundamental than 'what is a mother to do'?
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on 13 October 2005
I will not start with the usual plot synopsis, as other reviewers have already done that. I will just say that this is a beautiful and touching film, brought to us by a very talented cast. The nine year old boy playing Frankie, Jack McElhone, is just amazing. As the director, Shona Auerbach points out, since this is a silent part (Frankie is deaf), all of Frankie's acting has to be done through body language and facial expression. And Jack does this superbly. You hardly realizes he does not speak throughout the movie, since his face and his gestures speak so much and convey so many emotions.
The relationship between Frankie and the stranger who is hired by his mother to play his father for one day is very believable and very moving. The stranger, a sceptic at the outset, becomes emotionally involved and while at first he does not think much of Frankie's mother for doing this, ends up respecting her and so do we, the audience. Personally, I felt I did not like Frankie's mother at first, as her motives seem unclear. We learn about her motives with the stranger, and that's when my sympathy shifted.
I was also particularly impressed by the stranger's emotion in the scene where he meets Frankie: he needs to be believable, and he is very tense wondering if he has done well. I felt the tension with him. Gerald Butler is wonderful, looking handsome, tall, and reassuring, the father figure Frankie really needs.
There are so many touching moments I will let you discover for yourselves, as I don't want to spoil it for you. I will just say that the entire movie is full of twists and turns, much more than you'd expect. In the second half a surprise awaits in virtually every scene to the very end , and I also cried at virtually every one of these scenes.
"Dear Frankie" is filmed in Scotland, and features some beautiful scenery. I also enjoyed listening to the Scottish accent used throughout the film.
The additional material includes the director's commentary, to which I have not listened yet, an interview with the director, which I found quite interesting, and some deleted scenes, one of which at least actually reveals some insight into one of the minor characters. I'm thinking it's particularly clever to cut such a scene in the official release, and then add it to the deleted scenes section on the DVD, although I'm not sure this was intentional.
I enjoyed the movie, and I'll certainly want to rewatch it. Even though I now know about all the twists and turns in the plot, it will actually be interesting to follow the range of emotion displayed by this talented cast with all this pre-knowledge in mind.
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VINE VOICEon 3 April 2007
There are few films that I would want to watch more than once. Well, I've just watched 'Dear Frankie' for the third time, and it gets better each time. The plot has been covered in other reviews, and you probably wouldn't want me to give too much away anyway, so here are just a few reasons why I like this film so much:

It does have a great plot, full of twists and turns (and I'm one of those who thinks the ending is just fine). 'Nuff said.

It stirs strong emotions without being maudlin or sentimental.

It reminds us that great storytelling does not depend on huge budgets, special effects and all-star casts.

The story unfolds at a pace that is slow enough for the characters (and our identification with them) to develop fully. They are all utterly human and believable.

The photography, particularly the rather understated monochromatic colour schemes of most of the scenes, enhance the acting and the storytelling.

The music likewise.

In an age where films generally seem to be aimed at an audience with an attention span of somewhat less than one second, the length of time for which some of the shots are held seems quite daring. But how better to induce such a build-up of tension and emotion. Look at the scenes where the protagonists are leaning over a railing by the sea, or where they kiss, and you'll see what I mean.

The acting and direction are perfect.

I maybe don't see Gerard Butler in the light that some female reviewers seem to, but even as a man I can see that he has the charismatic presence of a latter day Sean Connery. (And he's so lucky to be acting opposite Emily Mortimer.)

So don't miss this film; it packs an emotional and artistic punch that is more than equal to most big budget Hollywood blockbusters.
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VINE VOICEon 23 June 2005
It is indeed difficult to talk about this film without giving away essential plot details. I would just say this; having seen a number of British and American films recently where not one of the characters is remotely interesting or likeable, it is wonderful to see a film where you care about virtually everyone who appears. There is a fantastic central performance from Jack McElhone as the lad Frankie, a deaf boy around whose letters to his father this story revolves. But all the performances are fine.
The film is atmospherically photographed in the Glasgow area, has some nice touches of humour, and is quite moving. And it even has a director's commentary that is worth listening to.
Definitely recommended; I have already watched the DVD twice.
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on 9 September 2007
This is a beautifully filmed , perfectly acted , well written real tear jerker of a movie that i defy not to touch the heart of everyone . British filmaking at it's best - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED / PS - Nothing like Billy Elliott as the cover suggests - MUCH Better !!
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on 3 June 2007
Dear Frankie is a different kind of movie to watch and really appreciate. It not the typical kind of British movie we are used to. Dear Frankie is an emotional type of movie. Your attention is drawn to the characters, as you feel so much sympathy and emphathy. The movie is based in the small Scottish seaside town. The setting of the movie really blends in well with the story.

The movie must be highly praised for the strong storyline and characterisation. Without revealing too much away, the movie is about a nine year old lad who is a remarkable character as he is deaf, but is really intelligent. Does he discover the truth about his father? His mother (Emily Mortimer) goes to great lengths to protect the truth, but later meets a man (Gerard Butler) who acts as a fake father, not a natural father. That the general gist of the story.

Britain boost quality actors with so much talent to offer. These include Emily Mortimer and Gerard Butler. The acting is off the highest standard. The performances provided ar a real reflection of the talents and skills displayed. The characters come across as credible and solid. The movie evokes a feeling of sympathy for the characters, as misfortunes seems to be present in their lives.

Dear Frankie is a fresh of breath air. It has a great story that maintains strong interest. It does not share the humour which we associate strongly with British movies. The outlook of life can be described a little bit more pessimistic.

Dear Frankie clearly justifies the UK film industry can offer variety and quality movie to viewers. The movie is worth watching, as it different, but a really good movie in terms of dramatisation and its contrasting outlook of life.
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on 11 March 2006
Dear Frankie is one of those slow and haunting films that make you feel every emotion in the book. The cast is awesome in all respects but Gerard Butler brings such believable humilty to the film its worth watching just to see him.
This film really is one of the best films ever for me - it presses all the right buttons and left me physically moved and for the first time ever I watched the same film 4 times!!
This really is Scottish film making at its best. More please!!
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on 4 September 2005
Dear Frankie was a beautiful film. It had a really touching storyline, without being too much of a chick flick. The scenery was stunning, and the soundtrack fitted into the film so well, without being overwhelming.The acting was spot on, and you genuinely feel for the characters.
The ending was excellent, and somewhat unexpected...but only added to how good it is. I would recommend this to anyone who wanted to watch a really good film, that leaves you feeling positive and happy at the end.
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on 14 October 2005
I will not start with the usual plot synopsis, as other reviewers have already done that. I will just say that this is a beautiful and touching film, brought to us by a very talented cast. The nine year old boy playing Frankie, Jack McElhone, is just amazing. As the director, Shona Auerbach points out, since this is a silent part (Frankie is deaf), all of Frankie's acting has to be done through body language and facial expression. And Jack does this superbly. You hardly realize he does not speak throughout the movie, since his face and his gestures speak so much and convey so many emotions.
The relationship between Frankie and the stranger who is hired by his mother to play his father for one day is very believable and very moving. The stranger, a sceptic at the outset, becomes emotionally involved and while at first he does not think much of Frankie's mother for doing this, ends up respecting her and so do we, the audience. Personally, I felt I did not like Frankie's mother at first, as her motives seem unclear. We learn about her motives with the stranger, and that's when sympathy shifts.
I was also particularly impressed by the stranger's emotion in the scene where he meets Frankie: he needs to be believable, and he is very tense wondering if he has done well. I felt the tension with him. Gerald Butler is wonderful, looking handsome, tall, and reassuring, the father figure Frankie really needs.
There are so many touching moments I will let you discover for yourselves, as I don't want to spoil it for you. I will just say that the entire movie is full of twists and turns, much more than you'd expect. In the second half a surprise awaits in virtually every scene to the very end , and I also cried at virtually every one of these scenes.
"Dear Frankie" is filmed in Scotland, and features some beautiful scenery. I also enjoyed listening to the Scottish accent used throughout the film.
The additional material includes the director's commentary, to which I have not listened yet, an interview with the director, which I found quite interesting, and some deleted scenes, one of which at least actually reveals some insight into one of the minor characters. I'm thinking it's particularly clever to cut such a scene in the official release, and then add it to the deleted scenes section on the DVD, although I'm not sure this was intentional.
I enjoyed the movie, and I'll certainly want to rewatch it. Even though I now know about all the twists and turns in the plot, it will actually be interesting to follow the range of emotion displayed by this talented cast with all this pre-knowledge in mind.
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