A moving and well-acted little tale, "Dear Frankie" focus on Frankie Morrison (Jack McElhone), a deaf child who nevertheless manages to get along well. His mother (Emily Mortimer) has been running from Frankie's abusive father for years, aided by her mother (Mary Riggans). However, Frankie misses having a dad and has been writing letters to his father for ages - but he isn't aware that he has been sending letters to a post office box, where his mother collects them and writes back.
His mother realizes that Frankie has been without a father figure for too long, but her fantasy structure is suddenly broken when a ship bearing the exact same name as the boat Frankie's father is on, according to his mother's stories, is scheduled to come in soon. Instead of telling Frankie the hard truth, she gets one of the men (Gerard Butler) to pose as Frankie's father. Frankie's friends have a bet with him that his father won't visit, but with the stranger at his side, Frankie collects on the wager.
The idea doesn't exactly have a huge amount of credibility as a story or otherwise, but "Dear Frankie" somehow actually manages to make the whole thing work surprisingly well. By keeping away from Big Emotional Moments, sappy ballads on the soundtrack and other such genre staples, "Dear Frankie" actually steers away from the kind of tearjerker train wreck that it could have easily become. Not telling Frankie and carrying it as far as Mortimer's character does in this film is difficult to buy, but the movie's tone really make it work pretty well.
The other big plus going for the film is the acting, as Mortimer is a key in making the whole thing work. She's strong and believable in her portrayal of a single mother trying to be protective of her son, who's gone through an enormous amount of hurt in only a few years. Gerard Butler, who wasn't too impressive alongside Angelina Jolie in the "Tomb Raider" sequel, gets a much better acting showcase here, as he plays the character exceptionally well, and we really believe that he and the boy have grown, in a short amount of time, to be friends. Finally, McElhone is subtle and moving in his performance as Frankie.
Overall, I really liked this movie. Yeah, it certainly does have a few bumpy moments in terms of plot, but the performances are terrific and the movie earns its emotional moments without being manipulative. Definitely a picture that deserved more attention than it got during its limited release.
VIDEO: "Dear Frankie" is presented by Miramax in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is generally quite pleasing, as sharpness and detail are above average throughout. Some moments look a little soft, but appear to be intentionally shot that way. No real problems occur outside of a couple of specks on the print and some slight edge enhancement. Colors remained natural and lovely, with nice saturation and no smearing. Overall, the transfer wasn't dazzling, but it really was quite fine.
SOUND: "Dear Frankie" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is a completely dialogue-driven movie, so it's no surprise that the audio is lightly spread across the front speakers, with only very minimal surround use. Dialogue and music remained crisp, clear and well-recorded throughout, with no concerns.
EXTRAS: Commentary by director Shona Auebach , an interview with the director, a "making of" for the movie and deleted scenes with commentary.
Final Thoughts: "Dear Frankie" really surprised me - it's not without some flaws in the plot, but the acting, direction and other elements really overcome them to make for a genuinely moving and engaging drama. Miramax's DVD offers very good video quality, fine audio quality and a nice set of supplements. Recommended for fans of the genre.
The Film A-