BY PATRICIA DRAZNIN
The lovely Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) is a single mom with a deaf son and a lot of secrets. In this humble tale of intrigue from the Scotland coast, we find Lizzie, her mother Nell (Mary Riggans), and son Frankie (Jack McElhone) always on the move, for reasons we don’t know. And Frankie gets letters from his absentee dad who sails the seas on the HMS Accra. But Frankie’s dad, we learn, is not at sea. These letters are written by Lizzie, who is single-handedly trying to give her son the love of two parents. Lizzie thinks her letters will fill the void in Frankie’s life.
But her plan is destined to capsize; the Accra is about to dock in their homeport. Lizzie panics. If she tells Frankie the truth she’ll break his heart. So she hires a stranger (Gerard Butler) to pose as Frankie’s dad on weekend shore leave.
Dear Frankie is a sad, romantic, and nearly plausible story, well cast and beautifully filmed, in spite of a few shortcomings. Ten-year-old McElhone plays a convincing deaf mute. And screenwriter Andrea Gibb steers clear of the clichéd ending to leave us some questions to ponder.
Allow me to whine briefly on two counts of timing and image. First, the early scenes unfolded too slowly, making me restless for disclosure. And second, the dashing stranger as Frankie’s dad looks more like an urban GQ than a salty seaman. Having vented, I will now confess that watching the miscast Mr. Butler was an experience I would rate as a ten.
The script ebbs and swells on waves of emotion and secrecy until the story plays out. And the driving force of sentiment—which turned some viewers off—left me misty as the credits rolled. I may be a romantic slob, but I’m a discriminating one. And “lovely deserving lady meets worthy hunk” does it for me.