> Volume 6 > Number 30


Shona Auerbach

Emily Mortimer
Jack McElhone
Gerard Butler
Sharon Small
Mary Riggans

Release: 1 Oct. 04

Dear Frankie


Under the façade of overly sentimental melodramatics is a surprisingly assured and hopeful rendition of a deaf boy’s story of finding his father. Dear Frankie sounds numbingly obvious, but there’s more to the film than meets the eye as director Shona Auerbach and screenwriter Andrea Gibb choose to let the characters speak more for themselves than to apply the conventional contrivances.

The final product isn’t perfect, but its flaws are like proud scars -- they are reminders that getting to this point is built on setbacks and pain. The choice to make the child deaf never feels completely free of exploitation, but the inspiration it brings to the film isn’t as heavy-handed as the similar but less charming About a Boy in which the kid’s major affliction was being tone-deaf. Whatever other mishaps (the casting of Gerald Butler as the potential pater familias is especially problematic -- his one-note acting is to just seem uneasy for the entire film; worse, Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel” makes its umpteenth aural cameo), the potential for catastrophe is averted by strong characterizations for the kid (McElhone) and his mother (Mortimer; her soft features working beautifully in a dowdy, unattractive role).

This doesn’t aspire to be The Piano, where the handicap was just as much part of Jane Campion’s feminist symbolism as a plot device, but Dear Frankie is a noble effort with charm to spare. It’s ending, filled with hope but not necessarily answers is a welcomed about-face from the happy integrationist ending force-fed in most films like this

©2004, David Perry,, 23 July 2004