Dear Frankie (12A)
Time Out saysFrankie (Jack McElhone) is a young deaf boy who lives with his mum, Lizzie (Emily Mortimer), and grandma, Nell (Mary Riggans), in a small flat close to the Glasgow docks. The trio, we learn, are forever on the move, always on the run from Frankie’s abusive father, Davey, who is trying to track them down. Lizzie, however, has concocted a very different version of events to protect Frankie. She claims that his dad is a sailor on a globe-touring ship, HMS Accra, even going to the extravagant lengths of replying to her son’s filial missives herself, ingeniously employing a local PO box number and foreign stamps. This neat conspiracy hits the rocks, though, when – would you Adam and Eve it – the local paper announces that the real HMS Accra will soon be docking in Glasgow. Thank God, then, for a friend’s anonymous brother (Gerard Butler), a mercenary sort who is willing to pretend to be Frankie’s father for a couple of days. Of course, things don’t go to plan…
This is a strange mix of social realism – the Glasgow setting, the single mother, lots of fish ’n’ chips – and shameless, soppy plot contrivance, even if good performances and calm camerawork serve to keep some check on an overbearing sentimentality that threatens to engulf you at every turn (driven by a signposting soundtrack). In the end, Lizzie’s terrible lie is unsatisfactorily explained in the hope that the audience will be too teary to notice. Another question is left begging too: why is Frankie deaf? Sure, a local reason is revealed in the story, but it’s hard not to feel that giving Frankie a disability is just another, unnecessary way of eliciting even more sympathy for the poor little blighter.