I saw a little-known film called Dear Frankie last night. I always saw the preview for it on my Finding Neverland DVD, and wanted to see it. It’s about a mother and her boy Frankie, who faithfully writes letters to his father, whom he believes is sailing on a ship called the Accra. The mother Lizzie—played by Emily Mortimer—intercepts these letters and writes him back twice a month. Suddenly, Frankie discovers his father’s ship is about to dock in their home port at Glasgow, and so his mother hires a stranger—played by Gerard Butler of Phantom and 300 fame—to stand-in for his absent father.
It seemed like such a simple plot device, but there were a lot of beautiful moments in the film. One thing I appreciate about foreign-made films is the faith that so many of the directors apparently have in the intelligence of the audience. Foreign films tend to be a bit more cerebral. Everything is understated, layers of character—like in a good painting—are subtle and implied, never spelled out. The cinematography was both lovely and delicately unassuming, a breath of fresh air after all of these popcorn flicks and three-quels this summer. I am so over summer blockbusters at the moment.
Also… I hardly ever cry in movies. I am not a chick-flick kind of girl, and I am definitely not a cry-during-a-chick-flick kind of girl either. But this film did me in. It has the emotional resonance and payoff of Finding Neverland, but none of the imaginative detours (And also no Johnny Depp). However, the casting was absolutely superb. The kid Frankie is certainly the heart of the film, and his vulnerability and indefatigable hope that he conveys is pretty amazing. The mother is surprisingly sympathetic—you would think, “C’mon, she’s just lying to her kid!”—but her motives and emotions are so much more complex than that and Emily Mortimer made her totally believable. And of course Gerard Butler’s scruffy ruggedness decked out in his black leather jacket certainly more than makes up for any supposed Depp-deficiency 😉
And Scottish accents are always a plus.
But if you’re in the mood, go out and rent or buy Dear Frankie. It’s a simple, beautiful human story.