“Dear Frankie”, a new Scottish film directed by Shona Auerbach, is a really great little gem that you should definitely seek out. Playing at a handful of independent theaters, it will slowly roll out to the rest of the country. If you are unable to find it at a theater, catch the DVD when that is released.
The beauty of “Frankie” is that every character seems real, like someone you might meet on the streets of Glasgow. Emily Mortimer plays Lizzie as a young, single mom who has had a hard life. Her one joy is her son, who is very intelligent, but a deaf mute. Because of the circumstances or her life, which we slowly learn as we watch the film, Lizzie has become withdrawn and feels she can only rely on her mom and son. When she meets Marie, she is reluctant to begin a friendship. But Marie realizes that Lizzie needs the friendship and offers her a part time job at the local chip shop and helps her in other ways. Her mother is a woman that has had her equal share of hard times, but she is trying to get her daughter out of the funk she is living in while protecting them at the same time. Little Frankie is also played in a very natural way by Jack McElhone. In films, children tend to be too precocious or too ‘adult’. Frankie is neither. As we learn more about him, we see that he is intelligent, shy, interested in a girl in his class and easy to bait into bets by another young boy in his class. His very existence and the letter writing have ensured that he will have an active imagination. But his mother has also helped him develop a strong interest in sea life and all other aquatic areas. Naturally, a little boy who has never met his father but receives regular letters from him will do whatever he can to learn more about his father’s world. The walls of Frankie’s room are lined with hand drawn pictures of sea life, a map of the world with pins marking the locations of each of his father’s letters and more.
The part of ‘Davey’ is a difficult one to pull off. Butler brings an air of desperation to the character in the beginning. I mean, why else would a grown man agree to portray a kid’s dad for a day, for probably 20 pounds, except that he is desperate for cash. As he spends time with Frankie, he realizes what a great kid he is. Thankfully, the emotions aren’t ‘big’ like they might be in a Hollywood film. He comes to this realization slowly. At the end of the day, when he asks Frankie and his mom to spend the next day with him, it makes sense. We believe that ‘Davey’ has actually grown fond of Frankie.
The key to this film is that everything is believable and natural. Nothing is played for theatrics or over the top emotion.
As the film winds to it’s natural climax, we begin to feel the emotion that the characters are feeling and this makes the story all the more powerful and moving.