Watch This: Dear Frankie

    Dear Frankie is an independent film directed by Shona Auerbach and written by Andrea Gibb. It was released in 2005 and it’s one of my favourites; not just because it’s a female writer and director/director of photography, but because it’s a solid film that was well written, acted, and filmed. It’s set and filmed entirely on location in Scotland.

    “Dear, Da. Did you know something? We’re moving again.”

    Jack McElhone plays 9 year old Frankie. Frankie is deaf and moves a lot with his mother Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) and grandmother Nell, played by Mary Riggans.

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    Frankie writes letters to his father whom he believes is working on a ship. One day at his new school, one of the kids tells him his dad’s ship is coming to port in their town. Frankie goes home and as Lizzie finds out about it she panics. This is because she is really the one writing the letters to Frankie and she thought the ship name she used didn’t exist.

    She decides to hire a stranger to be Frankie’s dad for the day. She tries a bar, but when that doesn’t work her new friend Marie, played by Sharon Small, suggests someone she knows.

    Lizzie goes and meets the stranger, played by Gerard Butler, and they agree to the deal.

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    As the film goes on we learn more about Frankie’s real dad and why they are always moving. One of the most touching scenes is when Lizzie tells Gerard Butler’s character how Frankie became deaf. Every time I see it, it breaks my heart a little, and his reaction is the icing on the cake.

    There’s a bit of a romance between Lizzie and the hired “dad”, however the fim is not about that. It’s about Lizzie and Frankie. How she fights to protect him, how she feels like she has to hide the truth from her son, and how she is afraid to lose him.

    She wants to know her son and because he’s introverted and doesn’t speak, she feels like the letters are her only way to get to know him.

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    The grey of Scotland works perfectly for helping create the mood of the story. The colour scheme is used in such a way that it helps tell the story instead of distracting from it. The colour choices show Lizzie’s isolation from the world by choice, and Frankie’s by his deafness.

    Watching the film, you watch the characters go through their life. They are well thought out, well written, and believable.

    We don’t know the background of the man Lizzie hired, we are never told. He’s not even given a name, the credits refer to him as The Stranger. He lives the lie of being Frankie’s dad completely. In the end we find out one key piece of information about him, but that is really the only time we ever learn about his past.

    Gerard Butler had to create a backstory for a man basically out of nothing and make him mysterious, but real and sympathetic. This is where I feel the writing and directing really helped him do this.

    Dear Frankie is a film about life, desperation, isolation, healing, forgiveness, and love. All those things are in the relationships and characters in the film.

    If you are looking for a clean-content film with real characters, that isn’t sad and depressing, this movie is for you. It leaves you feeling hopeful in spite of the circumstances of their lives.

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    • Hilary Dorst is a writer, director, and teacher living in British Columbia, Canada. When she’s not working on movies she is trying to get to the nearest beach and being crafty. She thinks life is about all the small stuff that people forget to look at and enjoy.

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