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Dear Frankie  

This U.K. film features Emily Mortimer as a woman who settles in the Scottish port town of Glasgow with her mother and her young son Frankie, who is deaf.   They’ve been picking up and moving every few years, clearly running from something in her past.   The family’s life revolves around the missing father: the mother has spun a tale to Frankie that his father is a sailor on a merchant boat traveling the world.   Frankie charts his father’s progress on the map on his bedroom wall and writes letters to his father that arrive at a P.O. box where his mom picks them up and writes back in the guise of the father.   Nearly the only time we hear Frankie’s voice is when we hear him reading the letters in his head.   One day the very boat that Frankie’s dad is meant to be aboard pulls into the harbor, and so his mother hires a mysterious stranger to impersonate Frankie’s dad.

Unfortunately the film treads perilously close to mainstream territory.   I really rather resent the mainstream film tactic, employed here, of the use of music to cue us as to how we’re meant to feel.   Look at a Mike Leigh film: the performances speak for themselves and achieve maximum emotional impact without a score beating you about the head.   Further, the mysterious stranger comes close to being the sort of rugged, brooding yet good man that might have wandered in from an intolerable mainstream romantic picture.    

The ending is very nicely handled in such a way that the theme becomes the ethics and utility of illusions, both for those who foster them and for those who believe in them (sometimes knowingly).   It’s also about finally letting the illusions go.   I also like the way the film handles the issue of domestic violence: though it never depicts it or gives it centrality, it’s the engine that motivates the entire piece.  

- Mar 18, 2005  

In the end, charming but inessential viewing.


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