Home Video

Dear Frankie - DVD Review

<div style="float:left">
<script type="text/javascript"><!--
google_ad_client = "pub-9764823118029583";
/* 125x125, created 12/10/07 */
google_ad_slot = "8167036710";
google_ad_width = 125;
google_ad_height = 125;
<script type="text/javascript"
</script></div>{/googleAds}Rarely does a film like this come along, strike every emotional chord and then, continue to warm your heart even long after the credits have rolled. A remarkable combination of brilliant writing, impeccable acting and cinematic beauty, Dear Frankie offers a hauntingly honest portrayal of fractured and emotionally complex strangers whose unorthodox encounter touches each other's lives in ways never bargained for.

Lizzie (eloquently portrayed by Emily Mortimer) is a devoted and protective mother constantly on the move from her husband, Davey (Cal Macaninch), whose brutal abuse extended not only to Lizzie, but their infant son, Frankie (Jack McElhone). A bright, charismatic, deaf boy now nine years of age (and a "champion lip-reader"), Frankie's only paternal memories lie in the letters he and his father, a naval officer aboard the ACCRA, exchange.

Unbeknownst to Frankie, however, his birth father never once expressed an interest in Frankie's life nor lifted a finger to write him one of the letters that Frankie holds so dear. Instead, it is Lizzie who is the true author behind each of those love-infused writings. Having invented the tale of a "father at sea" in order to spare her son the truth about his absent and abusive "da," Lizzie secretly purchases ship-collector's stamps, retrieves each letter from a post office box, then slips away to answer Frankie's letters with detailed accounts of seafaring voyages; all to sustain the charade of having a father who adores him. While Lizzie vehemently declares that her sole motivation for this tale is to protect the child she so desperately loves (and repeatedly professes that each letter is her last), she painfully admits that it is only through these letters that she can truly hear Frankie's voice again.

However, when local newspapers announce that the real ACCRA will be porting in their Scottish seaside town for the weekend, Frankie's excitement of finally being with his father soars; nothing in comparison, however, to Lizzie's fear of having to disclose the harsh truth to her son. In a last-ditch attempt to give Frankie that one day that he has only dreamed of, Lizzie decides to hire a stranger - a man with "no past, no present and no future" - to masquerade as Frankie's birth father. With the help of local shop-owner and new friend Marie (Sharon Small), Lizzie hires a handsomely callous stranger (Gerard Butler); a man who may not only become the father-figure that Frankie has longed for, but whose own life may be awakened by Lizzie and Frankie in the process.

A chick-flick? Not so fast. The beauty of Dear Frankie is that while on the surface it appears to be just another sugar-induced tear-jerker, the core of this film actually pulls you in directions never imagined. Its characters are wounded; surviving just above poverty, harboring proud but lonely souls, treading on vulnerability and quick to question any offer of kindness. Individuals whose private despairs have hardened them to the point that each is prepared, on a moment's notice, to pick up their locked suitcases and run away again, forming no attachments along the way. Transcending gender lines and daring enough to explore those ugly aspects of life that Hollywood tends to ignore? You betcha.

Make no mistake, however, this film never once begs for sympathy. Rather, Frankie's disability is as natural an attribute as his brown hair (and one which he cleverly uses to his advantage). While Lizzie has been stripped of her youthful spirit, she never once openly complains; instead, she focuses her energy on protecting her son by remaining one step ahead of her ex. And while the Stranger - whose identity and time are limited - is initially, an emotionless and solitary soul, it is he who causes those "formidable" walls built around each of the characters hearts to come crashing down.

Thankfully, through the direction of Shona Auerbach and the flawless writing of Andrea Gibbs, we come to know and care about their cinematic characters; to us, they are real and the emotion is raw. In one unforgettable scene, Lizzie finds Frankie searching through her closet in a desperate attempt to find a trace of his nonexistent father. Seeing her wedding dress fall to the floor and knowing that the information Frankie seeks is locked away therein, Lizzie's almost decade long fear turns to frustration. As if we are telling her exactly what to say, she screams and signs, "I'm the one that's here, Frankie . . . I'm the one that's still here."

But like Frankie, we do not need to actually hear how battered Lizzie, or the other characters truly are; we can see it in their faces and feel it in the power of their silence. And that is what makes this movie a true gem; never offering too much information, this film provides only what we need to know - leaving the rest to our eyes and imaginations. In fact, in one of the film's most emotional scenes, the Stranger and Lizzie are walking along the water when she reveals to him one of the secrets that has tortured her for years. He need not say a word in response; it is merely the look on Gerard Butler's face that makes us feel each and every emotion stirring in his veins. Without question, it is a beautiful and story-changing moment; one which makes us realize that the heard or spoken words are more often than not, unnecessary. Rather, it is the love and emotion we long to feel, that matters most.

Sad, humorous, painful and beautiful all in one loving spoonful, Dear Frankie is a non-traditional love story which celebrates not only the beauty of a mother's love but the strength of the human spirit. And while it promises to take you down, and ultimately leave you on, the most unpredictable of roads, this is one letter that you will long to read over, and over, again.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen 1.85:1

Subtitles: English

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Commentary - with director Shona Auerbach
* Featurettes -
o The Story of Dear Frankie
o Interview with Shona Auerbach
* Deleted Scenes - includes 8 scenes that didn't make the final cut.
* Easter Egg - Appears when main menu is played long enough.
* Preview Trailers - For next year's Ratatouille

Number of discs: - 1 disc in Keepcase Packaging.


Joomla SEF URLs by Artio
Follow us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook
Find us on Rotten Tomatoes