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Because DEAR FRANKIE is a limited release, many of us have to drive a
while to find a theater that is showing it. The 25 mile drive I took
was completely worth it.
Emily Mortimer plays Lizzie, who has been writing letters under the guise of her estranged husband to her deaf son, Frankie, for years. In writing the letters many things are accomplished. Frankie gets to feel like he has some contact with his dad and Lizzie gets to hear the innermost thoughts and wishes of her son through the letters she reads and answers.
When Lizzie, Frankie, and grandma Nell arrive in a new town, they befriend Marie. They also learn that the Accra--the ship on which Frankie thinks his dad lives--is docking near their town. With Marie's help, Lizzie encounters "The Stranger" and pays him to pretend to be Frankie's dad for one day.
Now I have seen a couple of critics find fault in casting Gerard Butler as The Stranger, thinking him too cold and gruff for the role. If these critics had watched the movie closer, they would've seen that the role called for gruffness at the beginning. However, Frankie has the same affect on The Stranger as he has on everyone else--making people want to be better and thawing out their chilly dispositions.
By the end of the movie everyone has learned something. Frankie has learned some truths through his mother and discovered others on his own. Lizzie learns to open up to others a little more. We learn who The Stranger actually is and, though we don't know anything about his past, we know that he has probably been emotionally shut down for a long time.
Like many, I went to see it because I wanted to see Gerard Butler, but I can honestly say that once the movie started (and he doesn't appear until about 45 minutes into the film) I was so engrossed in the story that the original reason didn't even exist anymore.
I have never seen Emily Mortimer in a film before, but I was very impressed with the heart and realism that she brought to her role, as well as the actress who played her mother. Young Jack McElhone was especially impressive. You could see why his mother wanted to protect him so much and you could understand why The Stranger wanted to extend the time he spent with him.
Critic Roger Ebert mentioned a scene in a doorway with Lizzie and The Stranger. He talked about the way a powerful scene does not need a lot of dialogue. I watched especially for that scene and completely agreed with his comments on its profundity. This was a beautiful film and I'm so glad that I saw it. It was sweet, simple, real, and powerful in many ways. It was the kind of film that will stay with you for several days. That is what good film-making is all about and it is refreshing to see one as high quality as DEAR FRANKIE. Enjoy-
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I thought I knew what to expect with the film "Dear Frankie", starring
Emily Mortimer and Gerry Butler. From the trailer and what I'd read, it
seemed like a bit of a romantic film, and the sort that would have
everything end "happily ever after."
I wasn't very familiar with Emily Mortimer (Lizzie), having only seen her in "Elizabeth" (and not really remembering her in it), though she's been in quite a few films. I wish I'd seen "Young Adam" before I saw this one, as both she and Jack McElhone (Frankie) were in it.
Lizzie and her family are on the run, though from what you don't learn straightaway. You do eventually find out that she's running from her husband, though the reasons aren't explained till much later in the film (and when they were, I completely understood why she'd left him!) However, because she didn't want to tell Frankie about his real dad, she makes up a story about him being a merchant seaman, and Frankie writes letters to him. They go to a postbox where she picks them up twice a month and writes back, pretending to be his dad. As Frankie is deaf and hardly speaks, this is how Lizzie gets to hear his 'voice'.
Thankfully, Frankie's disability is not played up in this film - he is deaf, and it of course affects all his interactions with others, but unlike many films, he's not saccharine- sweet, nor is he in the depths of despair. He's a normal kid with friends and school and all the other cares of a child. His friend Patrick finds out that Frankie's dad's ship is going to be in port, and he makes a bet with Patrick that his dad will come with him to watch him at the football trials. Of course, he writes about this in a letter to his dad, and Lizzie finds out. That sets off a scramble for her to figure out how to break the news to Frankie.
Luckily for Lizzie, determined to protect her son from life's misfortunes, her friend Marie has a friend (Gerard Butler) that would fit the bill as a 'dad for the day.' She meets him at a café, and arranges for him to read some of Frankie's letters, and some of hers in reply.
The scenes between the Stranger and Frankie were heartwarming, but not syrupy, which was a relief. The interaction between them was charming, as Frankie warms to his 'dad' and the Stranger becomes more attached to him.
This is a film that I would recommend to everyone. It is a quiet film, slower paced than most, but it is enjoyable, and delightful. Not your typical Hollywood fare.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A touching modern day fairy tale about a deaf boy and his mother and the 'knight on a white horse' who comes into their lives. Excellent acting in a naturalistic style grounds this story in truth. Beautiful and heartfelt, a must see gem. Kudos to the Director and writer and all the actors. Especially poignant is Gerard Butler as the Stranger. His emotions shine in a handsome face that the camera loves. Humor abounds but it is the story that will pull you in and make you believe that dreams do come true in one way or another. The sound track is not intrusive but gently stirs the emotions as the action takes place on screen. Do yourself a favor and try to catch this indie film while you can.
A fact given life through a rare visual. Dear Frankie, an incredible
film that highlights real life, it takes the hard times, parents and
especially kids pass through. Noting that in Frankie's case, this was a
given, unwilling disability.
People out there encounter such things in their daily lives.This reality is presented in an incredible way, that reanimates the aspected hope throughout this non-fiction film which is given a new nouveau aspect.
Innocence reigns throughout, although the kid realizes the truth hidden, he loves the stranger as a kid loves his father.
Gerard Butler penetrates into the deepness of the story, and through his presence the truth is revealed. The role of a stranger as many may note is usually used to notify the blankness and evil. Touchingly the stranger in Dear Frankie is the hero. A twist in the identity of the stranger is applied and given balance throughout.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
DEAR FRANKIE is one of those rare films that tell a story (by Andrea
Gibb) with such minimal extraneous effects, keeping the line of the
tale clear and unfettered by bathos, and results in an emotional
experience for the viewer that creates a sense of empowerment and utter
commitment. While much of this effect is due to the extraordinary
talent of director Shona Auerbach (who also is the film's magical
cinematographer!) and by the glorious musical score by Alex Heffes,
this film boasts one of the finest casts assembled for a small movie.
Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) is an itinerant resident of various towns in Scotland, living with her 9 year old deaf ('he's a gifted lip reader!') son Frankie (Jack McElhone) and her cranky, endlessly smoking mother Nell (Mary Riggans): they travel to short-time stays to escape discovery by Lizzie's abusive husband Davey (Cal Macaninch). Out of love for Frankie, Lizzie has 'created' a father who is a sailor and always at sea and corresponds with Frankie through letters Lizzie herself writes and mails. Though Lizzie feels a bit guilty at carrying on this beneficent deceit and Nell is angered at her daughter's game, Frankie is happy knowing his father is a brave seaman who writes to him constantly.
One of Frankie's new schoolmates Ricky (Sean Brown) hears that Frankie's dad's ship is soon to anchor in their town and, supposing that Frankie doesn't have a real father, makes a wager with Frankie that his father won't show. Frankie accepts, tells his mother, and Lizzie panics, deciding to find a stranger to pose for pay as Frankie's dad for a day. Lizzie's friend Marie (Sharon Small) finds a man to fit the need for a stranger 'with no past, present, or future' (Gerard Butler) and the stranger consents to aid Lizzie's plight. On the day of the ship's arrival, Lizzie arranges for the stranger to come to her flat to surprise Frankie. The initial meeting is quiet and phenomenally and subtlety touching. Frankie and his 'Da' walk the streets, the seaside, the docks, attend Frankie's soccer game where Frankie is able to win the wager with Ricky, etc: slowly the stranger bonds with Frankie as sincerely as Frankie does with the stranger. Lizzie softens, allows the stranger one more day posing as Frankie's dad, and in one of the most poetic doorway encounters ever produced on film, heals her emotional instability with the stranger.
The ending holds surprises and other luminous encounters, each of which allow us to see the transformation in each of the characters, all due to the power of love. No Hollywood ending here, just an understated bit of reality that pulls strongly on the heartstrings - and few viewers can resist the pull. The performance by Jack McElhone is astonishingly fine as is the work of Emily Mortimer and Gerard Butler. The entire cast is committed to the vision of the director and the result is simply unforgettable. Highly recommended for all audiences. Grady Harp
What a refreshing little movie after seeing all there is to see from Hollywood! I found myself being pulled in and imagining what each of the characters must have been feeling. It was very unusual, in that, there was no special affects, no dominating music,just beautifully, masterfully played out characters. Gerard Bulter gave a wonderful performance as the "Stranger". His character was very suppressed; makes you wonder where he draws that from? Emily Mortimer displayed a mother's love in a very real fashion; what mother wouldn't do the same thing under such circumstances? I found myself thinking this is a very real story.I confess...I saw it several times.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this today, I have to admit to being somewhat of a emotional hard nut, my past life having pushed me into that situation, and nothing has made me cry in many many years, not even never seeing my father for 40 of my 47 years. However I want to say thank you to the cast of this film especially Gerald Butler for reminding me of life, I sat and I cried and I prayed "the stranger would come back" how strange that is for me !, it was a film, I know it was, but you still forget that and you pray for the little boy to have his "dad". I just wish more men would be like the stranger portrayed a dad as. As a film, it was brilliant, I wanted more. I hope some of the cast see this and pass it on to Gerald et al, and say I said thank you for making me remember dad.
My recollection of films about single mothers, such as "Thirteen" with
Holly Hunter and "You Can Count on Me" with Laura Linney, is that there
is much shouting, enormous insecurity, and always the need for a man.
Not so the Scottish gem called "Dear Frankie." Lizzie (Emily Mortimer)
has a nine-year old deaf son, Frankie, with whom she moves frequently
to hide from his father. Lizzie is a compassionate, loving mom, and he
is a world-class lip reader who can charm the fiercest school bully.
Director Shona Auerbach places them in a picturesque shoreline of an otherwise industrial Glasgow. Lizzie continues to fake correspondence from his father, and Frankie replies faithfully while plotting his father's course aboard a steamer all around the Atlantic on a map in his room, much to the chagrin of his grandmother (Mary Riggans), a chain-smoking realist who doesn't approve of the charade.
They all cope quite well until news of the arrival of his father's boat, a fictional one until that moment. Getting a dad for a day is the essence of the film's good nature as it brings out everyone's true personality. Still no harsh single-mom moments, but not without heartbreak either. Aurebach and writer Andrea Gibbe give dignity to their characters and truth that seemed never so real in film. The director is confident enough to allow long periods of silence, for the actors and the subtext are so powerful that the silence is shouting, an appropriate metaphor given the film's protagonist is deaf.
"Dear Frankie" could have been sappy, maudlin, or just plain overly sentimental, but these characters are so balanced and focused, with mom even afraid to take a chance on love, that you can be happy for their little successes often emerging from setbacks that would have crushed others. No one, least of all Frankie, can be accused of willfulness; no one qualifies for Shakespeare's observation that "will is deaf and hears no heedful friends." Everyone here will be your friend.
LUVED IT! I received an invitation from a movie reviewer friend to
accompany him to this special advance screening. The theatre was packed
& you could hear an audible sigh from the females in the audience,
whenever Gerald Butler was on-screen. Not just eye-candy, Mr. Butler's
subtle portrayal as a compassionate loner was spot-on and I couldn't
have pictured any other actor in the role. The director (Shona
Auerbach) did the audience a HUGE favor by casting Gerald Butler, Emily
Mortimer & Jack McElhone.
I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones to have seen this film before it came out. I highly recommend it!! And if it's not playing in your area, rent it online. When it's released, buy it! Too bad the Hollywood marketing machine doesn't promote these types of films the way they get behind mediocre, horror films...ugh!
As I walked into the theater, I didn't know what the film was about. I went to see it just because I think Gerard Butler is an extraordinary actor. (Ever since discovering him in Timeline and seeing him in The Phantom of the Opera several times, he has come to be one of my favorite actors, and I believe one of the most talented in the industry.) So, when I left the theater - having my opinion of Mr. Butler solidify even more - I was so happy that I went. The acting, the directing, the writing - everything was done beautifully. I was taken into their world and didn't leave until the credits began to roll. The story was so honest and real. It reminded me of how movies used to be and how they should always be. It's an instant classic and I hope that the rest of the country has the opportunity to see the fantastic film.
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