A Refreshing Dose of Reality


Dear Frankie (2005) Review 5
Director:Shona Auerbach,
Starring:Emily Mortimer, Jack McElhone, and Gerard Butler
Length:102 minutes


Lizzie loves her son Frankie. That is why she is on the run.

Shona Auerbach’s sweet and thought-provoking little film “Dear Frankie” is the complete and utter anti-thesis to the other two new releases this weekend. Those films, “Be Cool” and “The Jacket,” are loud, insulting, and ridiculous. By contrast, “Dear Frankie” uses convenient movie contrivance well to tell a textured story populated by real people. The story as a whole may not completely hold up, but the characterizations created have depth and importance.

Lizzie, her son, Frankie, and her mother arrive in a small Scottish fishing village finding a run down apartment to inhabit. The attractive Lizzie (the always sharp Emily Mortimer) appears as run down as her surroundings. Frankie is deaf but functions quite well even attending school where he has a little trouble making friends due to his disability.

Lizzie’s mother looks depressed seeking solace in a pack of smokes. She looks at her daughter with respectful pity. Lizzie’s inner torment is more than just the fact that she never seems to stay in one place for very long. She has secrets from her son and feels bad about keeping them but has reached a point where she cannot stop the lies. And the lies are intricate and extensive. Lizzie has fabricated a father for Frankie by writing a series of letters supposedly penned by the father as he travels the world aboard a fishing vessel at sea.

“Dear Frankie” is a rough looking film filled with dark hues in which the very air seems to be a set piece. If you have spent any time in Scotland in say March, you will immediately recognize that director Auerbach has gotten it exactly right and the environment mirrors Lizzie’s emotional state.

The performances are top notch. Emily Mortimer who struck a sexy pose or two in “Formula 51” lets herself look down-trodden and abused, the worn badly look. She has solid motherly chemistry with the young actor that plays her son (Jack McElhone). While the romantic elements don’t work entirely, the pairing of “The Phantom of the Opera’s” Gerard Butler, who plays a character only known as “the stranger,” is a handsome one.

The story told in “Dear Frankie” centering on a young mother’s attempt to escape an abusive husband has been done before (remember “Sleeping With The Enemy,” “Enough,” or even “The Rich Man’s Wife”). But often Hollywood cheapens the serious issues by compressing them into the thriller formula. The whole idea of compression of a larger and more serious story into the movie format compels some dramatic license. Therefore, we can forgive the convenient and rushed way in which “Dear Frankie” introduces us to the abuser. It is refreshing that the story doesn’t become a thriller where the abuser becomes a killing machine.

I hear people tell me all the time that they go to the movies to escape the daily pressures and don’t want to pay to be reminded of them. Therefore, an insanely ludicrous piece of attempted escapism like “Be Cool” will dramatically outpace films like “Dear Frankie” at the box office. It would be naïve of me to believe that this trend will reverse itself. But one can dream.