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DEAR FRANKIE (PG-13) (2005)

Miramax Films

Official Site

Director: Shona Auerbach

Producer: Caroline Wood

Written by: Andrea Gibb

Cast: Emily Mortimer, Jack McElhone, Mary Riggans, Sharon Small, Gerard Butler


When I initially reviewed this movie at the Austin Film Festival last year (http://www.hybridmagazine.com/films/1004/aff2004/aff-reviews.shtml) I found it to be a sweet, touching, and overall engaging experience. And I still do.

Dear Frankie is the story about a single mother, Lizzie (Mortimer), trying to protect her young deaf son, Frankie (McElhone) from the knowledge that his father was abusive and a dead-beat. She constructed an elaborate charade where Frankie’s father is a sailor who is kept away from the family since he is stationed on a boat called the Accra. Frankie communicates with his father by writing letters—and Lizzie makes sure replies are sent because she writes them herself. With her mother, Nell (Riggans), Lizzie constantly moves the family around to stay away from her estranged husband. Complications arise when Frankie finds out that a ship actually named the Accra is sailing into town, and he’s excited to finally meet his dad. Now against the wall, Lizzie decides to further construct the ruse by paying a stranger (Butler) to pose as Frankie’s pop for the day.

This is a good, albeit smaller, role for Butler whom we usually see in Hollywood garbage such as The Phantom Of The Opera, Tomb Raider 2, Timeline, and Reign Of Fire. Butler plays the nameless stranger hired by Lizzie to play Frankie’s dad. And of course Butler’s character becomes fond of the interesting lad and attracted to Lizzie. However, don’t jump to conclusions. It never gets as far as the typical Hollywood flick. All I’m saying is don’t expect to see any adult actors’ clothes on the floor or hear wedding bells at the end.

McElhone does a wonderful job as the hearing-impaired and endearing Frankie. Mortimer has great job chemistry with McElhone.

Normally one would be upset or discouraged by what is essentially Lizzie’s lie to Frankie, but there’s more to it than that. Lizzie is not really trying to shield her son from the harshness of reality or the real world. When you observe how Lizzie and Frankie live and how they constantly move from home to home, where money is very tight, it’s obvious that the real thing Lizzie is trying to protect for Frankie is his childhood—innocence and youth, that idealism that every pre-adolescent needs and deserves to have. The real reason she writes the letters to Frankie and always encourages Frankie to write his own, is to give Frankie a focus to ground himself—almost like a fun, playful learning game. An eight-year-old boy, especially one who is handicapped, needs a positive focus in life. When you finally learn the truth behind everything… it really just doesn’t seem that bad at all. And it shows the strength of the bond that Lizzie and Frankie have, that unique love that only a mother and her son can share. I guess that kind of makes me a momma’s boy at heart, which I will not deny.

—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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