On a Clear Day

Film
BREAKING THE WAVES Mullan sees greatness offshore.
BREAKING THE WAVES Mullan sees greatness offshore.

Time Out says

Frank Redmond (Mullan) is a Glaswegian shipbuilder who, at the beginning of On a Clear Day, finds himself laid off—prompting a late-midlife crisis for this taciturn family man. Why does he shut out his blowsy, affectionate wife, Joan (Blethyn)? Why can’t he get along with son Rob (Sives), a defensive stay-at-home dad? Why has he never really grieved for the son who drowned in childhood? Frank impulsively decides to swim the English Channel, gathering a support team of eccentric mates to help him accomplish the feat so he can get on with his life.

First-time feature director Gaby Dellal has fashioned a perfectly competent film around this inspirational tale—the sort that usually comes advertised as “based on real events.” (The screenplay by Alex Rose is actually fictional.) But who goes to the movies to be inspired? Entertained, educated, turned on, infuriated even—but inspired? Oprah’s on every weekday at 4. Sure, you feel an emotional surge—expertly amplified by the score—when Frank is at last braving the chilly, turbulent waves, his friends cheering him on from the boat and his family waiting onshore in France. But On a Clear Day is so cursory in sketching its working-class Glasgow setting and its secondary characters (Blethyn, especially, has little to do) that you leave the theater with nothing more than a pleasant, vague feeling of spiritual uplift. (Opens Fri; see Index for venues.)—Tom Beer

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