Dear Frankie Review
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It’s one of the unfortunate truths of modern cinema that the least well-made movies, the ones devoid of any idea that may provoke thought (all the better not to upset the casual American moviegoer), are the ones playing by the barrel-load at every corner multiplex—while the smaller movies, the ones with real heart and soul, are the ones that never seem to be “now playing at a theater near you.” These movies only play in smaller venues, requiring you to drive a ways to find them. But when you do, very often you’ll find yourself rewarded with a true cinematic gem, a diamond in the rough.

Dear Frankie is just such a movie. It tells the story of a broken but resilient family in Scotland. A young deaf boy, named Frankie (Jack McElhone) lives with his mother, Lizzie (Emily Mortimer), and his grandmother, Nell. The film begins with them moving to the town of Glasgow. Frankie’s birth father is not in the picture (We learn later that he was abusive, and his abuse caused Frankie’s deafness. As Lizzie puts it, it was “a gift from his dad.”), but Lizzie, having never wanted to explain to her son about his father and about the abuse he was too young to remember, has created an elaborate story to explain away the absence. Frankie’s dad, he’s told, is a sailor on a ship that’s always traveling somewhere far off in the world. Frankie’s letters to his father are intercepted by Lizzie, who writes back, pretending to be the perpetually sailing dad.

  
 
All is proceeding as it always has when news comes that a ship bearing the exact name of the one Frankie believes his father is on will be arriving in the town’s port. Desperate to keep her charade going, Lizzie decides to hire a man to become Frankie’s dad for a day. The man she hires (Gerard Butler) is never given a name and is credited in the film only as The Stranger. He comes, per Lizzie's request, with no past, present, or future, and it is with his arrival, about halfway through the film, that things really kick off.

The joy of this movie is that it doesn’t necessarily go where you think it will, and it doesn’t tell you what to think. It invites you to make your own judgments about the characters’ actions, or lack of actions. Even the father avoids becoming the one-note stereotype that a big-budget Hollywood film would undoubtedly make him. This is a movie that revels in quiet moments, in little looks, and small touches. It’s a movie where just a hug from one character to another can contain a hundred emotions. If you enjoy discovering the little films that exist off the beaten path, and you can find Dear Frankie playing at any theater near you, even if it’s a bit farther than that corner multiplex, you’ll find a wonderful movie that’s well worth your time.


Ed. Note: To see if Dear Frankie is playing in a theater near you, visit Amazon.com.

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