Of all the films I’ve seen (and believe me, there have been
many), very few have actually moved me to tears. Only two, in fact. The
first being The Elephant Man, which is easily one of the most incredibly
heartbreaking films ever made. The
other being Dear Frankie, a little known Scottish film that deserves a much
bigger audience than it has received since its release in 2004.
While not necessarily a “long lost film”, Dear Frankie is
one that isn’t widely known, for reasons I am not completely sure of. The cast is small, but powerful, with Emily
Mortimer, from Match Point and Gerard Butler who is enjoying much success due
to 300. And the story is one that is
simple, but incredibly detailed, truthful and honest. At the end of the day, it is obvious that the filmmakers did not
have a very big budget, so they wisely focused on the story and made it the
star of the picture.
Dear Frankie tells the story of Frankie, a highly
intelligent deaf boy who lives his days idolizing the father he’s never
met. He moves from home to home with
his mother Lizzie and grandmother Nell for reasons unknown. To protect her son from the truth about his
father, every couple of weeks Lizzie writes letters to Frankie, posing as his
father, a man working at sea on the HMS Accra.
But what Lizzie doesn’t know is that Frankie’s been keeping track of the
HMS Accra and, one day, much to his delight, discovers that it will be docking
not too far from where they currently live.
With not enough time to move away, Lizzie is forced to either tell
Frankie the truth or think of something a little more creative. After much thought, she decides to pay a
complete stranger (Gerard Butler) to act as Frankie’s father. The act eventually turns into something that
reveals more about their characters than they ever expected.
What I adore most about this picture is that the story
develops in a surprising fashion, but also a realistic one. I notice that when it comes to dramas,
plenty of filmmakers tend to tweak emotions here and there in order to come to
that always-important happy ending.
While Dear Frankie ends on a happy note, it reaches that goal without
betraying the audience. For ninety
minutes, we get to know these characters, see how they act in certain
situations, as well as see their flawed personalities interact with one
another. It’s only fitting that the
ending suits their personalities.
I’m sure by now you’ve come to the realization that the film
has a slow pace, but that is also one of its most endearing qualities. It takes its time telling this simple story,
one that is the very definition of the bittersweet love story. The picture focuses on the love between
mother and son, as well as father and son.
The thing is, in this story, the father figure isn’t necessarily
Another beautiful aspect of the film is its habit of
avoiding predictability. Seeing as how
the main character is a deaf little boy, it would be assumed that the
filmmakers would make the audience feel sympathy for him. Incredibly, that is not the case. His disability is rarely focused on, if at
Dear Frankie is a story about forgiveness and the love
that should exist within a family.
Frankie is constantly surrounded by people who love and care for
him. I mean, even the stranger hired to
pose as his father for a day adores the boy by the film’s end. As a matter of fact, in order to further
elaborate on the character development, I have to tread into spoiler territory. So if you plan on seeing the film and don’t
want to know key elements of the third act, stop reading now.
By the end of the film, it is revealed that Frankie knew all
along that the stranger was not his father.
It’s an interesting way of emphasizing the intelligence of the
character. While it’s a surprise to the
audience, it’s not impossible that Frankie would know such a fact. He is very observant, after all. It’s one of many nuances that help fully
develop the character.
After Frankie reveals the truth, one of the most
heartbreaking scenes in the movie takes place.
For the first and only time, Frankie speaks (he reads the letters he
writes to his father throughout the film through narration), asking the
stranger not to go. It’s a
heartbreaking moment, one that is affecting on so many levels that it takes a
while for you to realize the deep impact it actually has. The moment is quiet, reserved and incredibly
moving without being forceful, predictable or unrealistic.
While there are subplots involving Frankie’s mother and her
budding relationship with the stranger and her mother’s opinion of it, as well
as Frankie’s biological father re-entering his life, the film’s strongest
scenes involve the little boy and the stranger. Even though they are strangers, they know so much about each
other and they connect on a very real level.
Like I mentioned before, the film ends the way you expect it
to. And that is not necessarily a
negative thing, especially in the context of this film. Dear Frankie isn’t a film dedicated to
telling a suspenseful story, full of surprise twists and turns. It’s a very human story that takes its time
developing the characters that populate its world. It is a beautiful film that, when discovered, you will hold very
dear to your heart. I know I do.