A review of “Dear Frankie” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for language and mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

 

 

Emily Mortimer gives a bravura performance in this sweetheart of a film about a tenacious mom protecting her deaf son from life’s harsh realities.

Nine-year old Frankie (Jack McElhone) lives with single mom Lizzie (Mortimer) and his Nana (Mary Riggans) in one of the many dingy apartments they’ve occupied over the course of Frankie’s short life.

Due to his severe hearing loss Frankie lives in a world all his own, highlighted by the enthusiastic letters he sends and receives to his merchant seaman dad who lives aboard an exotic traveling trawler.

Perhaps not surprisingly the letters are written by Lizzie, who maintains an intimate connection with Frankie’s silent universe by means of her colorful, word-inspired fantasy. Hidden agenda item -- keeping her son from the ugly truth about his deadbeat dad.

Unfortunately for Lizzie her make-believe ship is coming into port and Frankie is beside himself over his long-awaited reunion with his absentee father. Enter the perfect stranger (Phantom of the Opera’s Gerard Butler), a handsome friend of a friend who reluctantly offers to help create an imaginary shore leave (in exchange for cash) so as not to disappoint the excited lad.

 Frankie’s narrative improbabilities aren’t for everyone but they go down easily with the proverbial grain of salt. Tight scripting is well-wrought but a tad spare, offering both Mortimer and Butler a chance to display their ample skills without the benefit of lengthy discourses.  

This is a lovely ensemble piece that touches on poignant themes of commitment, compassion and the emotional exhaustion inherent in maintaining an elaborate fiction originating from love and fear. The grey everydayness of the Scottish coast intermittently sparkles with the crystal glow of the sea and a hint of something special lying just beyond the horizon.