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I'm somewhat taken aback by a lot of the criticisms of this
masterpiece. It is a masterpiece in my view, and that "fact" occurred
to me only when examining the cries by the writers here. I found myself
dismissing every single one of them without difficulty.
Firstly, I am aghast at those who are not happy with films that produce an emotional reaction on the part of the movie-goer, as if to make an emotive piece of work is somehow limp or uncool or a cop-out. The best films are those that mirror humanity, whether that be in terms of violence committed by Man/Woman to Man/Woman, love, hate, envy, ambition and the others which make up the full range. Let us be clear: any film that deals with pain and heartbreak is not one that is choosing a soft option. How many of us do not feel pain and heartbreak? None of us presumably, so to state the obvious, this is valid ground for the modern writer and director to tread.
The difficulty for the film-maker in 2005 is finding the money to make a piece of work that is not compromised by commerce: to use music, action and dialogue in a clichéd manner to satisfy the warped idea of producers that the masses will only pay money for films that use such devices. Auerbach manages in this movie to almost completely avoid these pitfalls. There is no sex, no bulging orchestral interventions, no truly happy ending. I would however have removed the awful song by the awful Damien Rice and taken the dopey look off Emily Mortimer's face when she realised that the stranger was a decent guy as well as a bit of alright, but these in the end are trifles; for the director makes us emote without manipulation and without using plot devices which strain credulity (I don't care what any of you think).
Critics here are being too cynical. The searing melancholy of Bergman might satisfy them I suspect, but they seem to be missing the fact that there is precious little humour in this movie. The Mortimer character here is almost humourless enough for a Bergman movie, as is the Stranger for the most part, so the criticism of mawkishness isn't remotely credible. The mother is also a fairly grim presence. Auerbach could easily have tweaked her film to emphasise or exaggerate the sense of internal pain of all three leads, but she happily and smartly eschews still shots of these nomadic characters wallowing in their isolation. Instead, their internal lives are displayed with a greater sense of reality. There is a humdrum quality to their lives which is as it should be if a director is shooting for naturalism. Contrast this with Leigh's Vera Drake where for more verisimilitude, there should have been more dirt, more roughness to the people and their homes. True the working class often prided themselves on cleanliness, but in the terraced house in Tottehnam I encountered in the late-50s and early-60s you smell the lack of true cleanliness and see it too.
In terms of characterisation Auerbach also got things right. Far from The Stranger being too handsome, handsome people can be found anywhere, and he's a scruff! Furthermore, the idea that he is Mr Perfect is risible. He is emotionally stunted initially, callous and unfeeling in his first meeting with Mortimer, and for me - not that I know any seaman - is plausibly detached from regular land life. The criticism seems to be that is implausibly seduced by the admittedly dysfunctional family unit. I don't buy that. His inability to relate to the child when they meet for the first time is either perfect or too much, but he's anything like the Disneyland father- manqué some reviewers here are suggesting. Auerbach has him thawing out very slowly. The movie too slow? A slicker 95 minute version wouldn't have allowed this. If some viewers have a retarded attention span that's their lookout.
That the Stranger is won over is not feel-good nonsense, it's entirely believable and well executed. Why? Because the father instinct is in all men. He responds to this splendid child in a way that is merely human. Sure, some men would not have responded, so go on, be cynical, but then there's no film. And if Mortimer's search for the surrogate father seems far-fetched, most of us can tell you miseries that the truth of everyday life is often far stranger than reality.
The denouement is magnificent. I'm rubbish at seeing twists coming in movies, and I saw this one accidentally. My reaction (look away if you've not seen the film) when the child first sees the "Father" was, 'he knows he's not his real Dad.' The direction is brilliant, the acting brilliant or Aerbach got lucky. In the end it doesn't matter; this key scene is superbly subtle however achieved.
There are indeed moving moments. The gift of the sea horse was profoundly affecting. The boy's talking to the Stranger to show how he felt about the crucial surrogate fathering that he's just received could for me also have been very, very upsetting. The direction of Frankie at this moment is fantastic: to keep his reaction under control is how we are: in our lives few lose control, weep hysterically or throw the punch. Frankie doesn't here, so tears us apart.
Finally, the real father: moral ambiguity? Life has many of these moments. I don't agree with the point anyway. Mortimer's reaction to the violent father is beautifully poised between the hard-heartiness part of her wants to show him and the dignified humanity the other part of her wants to reveal.
Such precious, subtle moments make for a tremendous piece of film-making. Fortunately most reviewers here liked the movie. If that weren't the case, we might as well all give up and start praying for the human race.
I just saw Dear Frankie October, 15th and was more than delighted in
the film. It is fantastically moving, and even though it is not filmed
with enormous 'dramatics', as the blockbuster Hollywood films are, it
is so amazingly 'real' - and thus captivating. I heard that the first
screening left the actors stunned to wait so long for the standing
ovation to subside - I can see why.
The acting is superb, but the story is marvelous. It is a film with a not-so-simple message - one that moves the soul. One moment you are entertained with quick-witted humor, and the next moment your heart fills with compassion. It's simplicity is one of it's main high points and the absence of Hollywood "flash" is refreshing!
Heart-warming and pleasantly humorous - I would recommend it to anyone!
I loved it and plan on seeing it again. 5 stars for Dear Frankie!
I thought "Dear Frankie" was a delightful film. It was supposed to be a tear jerker! I felt the acting was true (especially the work done by the child who played Frankie) and that the story, while fanciful in some portions, was good. In my opinion, the story was about the lengths a parent will go to in protecting their child from the ugliness of the world. Why must films always emulate reality? What is wrong with telling just a sweet, gentle story? Emily Mortimer was great, portraying a woman who had to be strong, yet who was also vulnerable, who was barely holding life together for her son and mother. Jack McElhone was terrific as her son. He was neither a cloyingly innocent deaf "victim" or the smart butt kid typically portrayed in current films. Gerard Butler did a good job of conveying "the man behind the disguise" as his interaction with Frankie progressed. I saw this film at the LA Film Festival, and judging by the audience reaction, I was not the only viewer who was enchanted by this movie. Those of you looking for a gritty slice of life would be wise to avoid "Dear Frankie". But if you want to spend some time in a world were parents DO care and good things do happen to those who are deserving, then this is the film for you.
One of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, Dear Frankie is a
true hidden gem without the glossy cloak of stardust that you get with
so many films. It's definitely in among my favourites.
It has a unique and thoughtful storyline that is portrayed by the perfect combination of actors. There are no superstars or big names, just a group of people who want to make a film that pulls heartstrings which it does successfully. Dear Frankie gives you that rare feeling of sadness and happiness which is hard to forget.
It was a true masterpiece, the most near-perfect film that I have ever come across.It was the only film to ever bring tears to my eyes, which is quite a feat.
This was one of the best films I have seen for many years. The
photography is absolutely marvellous; it hardly needs anything else.
The acting is restrained, measured and true. I couldn't get much better than this.
It is true that it is emotionally laden but it is not all sadness, there is also humour, affection, and most importantly hope. If you find it too emotional you can always pretend that smoke got in your eyes.
Isn't the function of a good film to try and draw out emotions ? It is especially rewarding when these are positive and natural rather than base and specious.
An easy 10 out of 10
I saw the movie last night in Los Angeles - it's only playing at a
couple of theaters. Other reviews undoubtedly explain the premise of
this film so I'll dispense with that . . .
Folks looking for a lot of exposition or for a film that screams "Hey! Look over here!!", or Gerry Butler fans looking for some of that famous sex appeal should be warned. This film is very subtly written and acted. Much of the story is told on the characters' faces, on what that tells you about what is going on internally within the characters. The characters aren't archetypes (i.e., villain, precocious kid, cynical older woman) but real and complex people who like the rest of us face life without histrionics or mugging for the camera. No plots are hatched but we see choices have been made in increments so that the idea of hiring a "stranger" to play dad does not seem contrived. I disagree that the audience is being manipulated; in fact, what could be a predictable manipulative ending is not, and is left to the viewer to interpret. The film tells you a story but doesn't try to tell you how to feel about it. Even the music is simple and subtle, no sweeping rifts to get your emotions going. It is a quiet film with a good story and people you end up caring about - as if you'd peered into their lives for a few days.
Like all the best stories, this one is simple and affecting.
There's not a lot in Lizzie and Frankie's lives to aspire to, constantly on the move and clearly in fear of something. All Lizzie wants is to give Frankie the life he deserves, and in the process she sacrifices her own comforts and happiness. The letters Frankie receives from his 'Dad' (written by Lizzie) afford him the comfort and release of imagining far-away adventures and his replies speak to Lizzie in a clear voice which Frankie's deafness denies him in real life.
The prospect of meeting his father, when his ship comes to town, is Frankie's dream - at last the chance to meet the exotic and mysterious man who loves him so much - and Lizzie's completely unexpected nightmare. How they deal with it, more together than they realise at first, is the heart of the film.
Having painted the slightly depressing picture of a mother and son caught in a life which they wouldn't have chosen for themselves, the film runs the risk of mawkish sentimentality to achieve a satisfying conclusion. This, of course, would only appeal to the most sweet-toothed romantics in the audience. But the film's skill in involving the viewer makes for a rewarding experience and the danger of tears being shed by even the most hard-hearted who see it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lizzy, is a tough but fragile woman, desperate to protect her deaf son Frankie from the outside world. Constantly on the move to evade her violent ex-husband, she secretly writes letters to Frankie, pretending to be his father on a long stint as a merchant shipman. She does this partly to maintain a sense of hope in the boy, but also it is the only way she can "hear his voice". Complications arise when Frankie finds out that the ship his father is supposed to be on is docking nearby in a few weeks. With the help of an enigmatic "stranger", she attempts to connect the boy with his imaginary father, while staving off the demands of the real father who is dying of undisclosed causes... This could so easily have drowned under the weight of its sentimental script, but for the beautifully restrained performances from the leads. Emily Mortimer is sensational as the vulnerable Lizzie, tough-guy Gerard Butler is smooth as the honourable stranger & they are assisted well by a terrific supporting cast (especially young Jack Mchelhone). Shona Auerbach thankfully ignores the temptation of a conventional ending. Not a dry eye in the house.
"Dear Frankie" is a heart-tugging family romance with decidedly
non-Hollywood touches that add to its charm and poignancy.
We are swept into both sides of an unusual epistolary relationship -- one between a mother and son, as each takes on alternative identities to communicate, and we get to hear their adopted voices as well.
The son is an isolated deaf kid who won't talk but pours out his heart in letters, while his fiercely protective mother pretends to be his fictional seagoing dad in response. We are drawn into their parallel stories from each perspective, as their defensively claustrophobic relationship has an outlet in this fictional geography as they gradually start dealing with the real world.
Emily Mortimer combines strength and naked vulnerability, as she did in "About Adam" and "Lovely and Amazing," while the son is captivating in an almost mimed role without being as treacly as the kid playing Peter in "Finding Neverland." Debut director Shona Auerbach keeps the movie tethered to reality with evocative use of Glasgow and its active port. We are anchored in a working class bloke territory that becomes a rocky shore for an untethered single mom living with her mother and her kid. This is tellingly symbolized when Mortimer braves a rough waterfront bar.
And then re-emphasized in a hotel tea parlor whose atmosphere electrically changes the minute rugged Gerard Butler pops up on screen. Epitomizing that cinematic manliness that is so talked about as lacking from most American actors these days, Butler's absolutely authentic masculinity instantly telescopes what this mother and child have been missing, and not just his sexual gravitas. Butler movingly demonstrates how a guy's guy plays paternal through such simple things as football, skipping stones, eating and of course dancing.
I don't know if I missed the clues to the concluding twists, but Hollywood would never let these lovely mysteries be, let alone as an achingly long look into each's eyes.
It's nice to see faces from Scottish TV shows in atypical roles, Sharon Small deservedly having a steady boyfriend on screen for a change, and Cal Macaninch, the nice guy from "Rockface" as the not nice guy here.
The Scots accents are thick and I did miss some punch lines in the dialog here and there.
The song selections are lovely, including a Damien Rice track that hasn't been overused yet.
The movie Dear Frankie is a wonderful story about a boy with a hearing impairment who does not speak. The actor who portrays him does an amazing job communicating without words, his need and longing for his father. Emily Mortimer, who plays his mother in a passionate performance, attempts to protect her son from the truth about his absent father. Her struggle with the truth is a difficult road that is lightened slightly by the woman who plays her mother. I enjoyed Gerard Butler's performance as the Stranger. This part for him was a nice transition from the action movie characters he played previously and as the Phantom of the Opera. He brings a broody, stand-offish quality to the Stranger that draws you in and makes you want to see what will happen with the three characters. He may have the ability to become one of those actors that truly can steal your heart with an Oscar winning performance. The movie has twists and turns to completely exhaust those that may have an emotional nature. The movie starts out a little slow but turns into a fantastic, heart warming experience. The setting, in my opinion, does great credit to the movie since the beauty of Scotland can be viewed in its landscape shots of Glascow. In my opinion, Dear Frankie is an emotional roller-coaster that I would ride again and again. If only it would be out in more theaters nationwide.
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