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"Dear Frankie"
Reviewed by: Kim Anehall
Genre: Drama
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages English, French
Subtitles English, Spanish
Length 105 min
Rating PG-13
Release Date July 5, 2005
Studio Miramax Home Entertainment
Commentary: “by Director Shona Auerbach”
Documentaries: “The Story of Dear Frankie”
Featurettes: None
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: “Interview with Director Shona Auerbach”
Trailers/TV Spots: None
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: “8 Deleted Scenes”
Music Video: None
Other: None
Cast and Crew: Emily Mortimer, Jack McElhone, Mary Riggans, Sharon Small, Katy Murphy, Sean Brown, Jayd Johnson, Cal Macaninch
Written By: Andrea Gibb
Produced By: Caroline Wood
Directed By: Shona Auerbach
Music: Alex Heffes
The Review:

In a time of email, chatting, and text messaging, director Shona Auerbach transcends the power of written words on paper into an affectionate and poignant tale of a single parent's love for an only child. The altruistic affection of Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) tries to accommodate a normal childhood for her deaf son, Frankie (Jack McElhone), while trying to provide a safe and nourishing upbringing for him. Through this process she has created a father image for Frankie who always travels on the seven seas onboard the Accra. The only means of communication between Frankie and his fictionalized father is through letters, which his mother secretively writes. ***

What Frankie does not know is who his real father is, as Lizzie constantly tries with the help of her mother (Mary Riggans) to keep the secret alive through the made up sailor who provides Frankie with fatherly comfort. The film opens with Frankie and Lizzie preparing for a move to a Glasgow. In Glasgow, Frankie gets into trouble with a kid called Ricky (Sean Brown), who first tries to pick on him for being deaf, but Frankie is way too smart for a bully such as Ricky. However, Ricky continues to pester him and reveals that Accra is coming to town. This leaves Frankie slightly confused, as he does not understand why his father would not have told him. Ricky tries to capitalize on his confusion by making a bet that his father is not coming to Glasgow. ***

It is with much agony and pain that the mother tries to find a way to save the day for Frankie, as she knows about the bet and how it would make him feel on his upcoming birthday as well. Nonetheless, Lizzie comes up with a clever solution to hire a man to pretend to be Frankie's father, which would save Frankie's face and make him very happy. Meanwhile, Frankie's real father's family has located them, and also desire to see Frankie. This puts Lizzie under a very stressful situation, as she cannot run due to Frankie's pretend father's arrival while trying to hide the truth for him. ***

Initially Dear Frankie seems like a melodramatic story, but through Auerbach's attention to details and the minimal in each scene he raises the film far above average. The success rests completely within simplicity where the appearance and action of the characters reveals far more than just a presence. Every single character comes with words, but also actions consistent to their character. Auerbach brings the audience’s attention to the actions of the characters and not the words. Furthermore, Frankie's deafness provides an analogy that suggests that what one see is more important than what one hears. In the scene where Lizzie visits the real father the audience can also see his actions, see him speak for himself, and see why Lizzie left him in the first place. ***

The many symbols within the film that come into play such as the letters, ship, deafness, and several others trigger reflexively thoughts that help driving the story in the right direction. In addition, one cannot forget to mention the cast’s wonderful performances, as they brought out the necessary elements of human interaction and affection. Together these two are incorporated through clever scene framing that implement the mise-en-scene with a simplistic, yet inspiring intentions to provide a comprehensive view of a mother's zealousness to offer her son nurturing and affectionate care. ***

Image and Sound:

The image on this disc is rather good while being presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which of course is anamorphic widescreen. There are some edge enhancements present in the picture, but they are barely noticeable. The colors on the DVD deliver realistic impressions of its environment, which indicate a decent transfer. ***

A very clear audio comes flowing out of the speakers, mostly the front speakers. However, there are occasions with solid surround sound, as when they are in the bar. This can be heard in both French and English, which come in a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. *** ---

The Extras:

The DVD comes with three extras in the following order. The first extra is a making of called The Story of Dear Frankie, which goes into detail on how the director Shona Auerbach wanted to make this a feature film instead of a short film. Several of the cast members praise each other and disclose how it was to make the film. Among the 8 deleted scenes the audience can decide whether they want to have it play with or without the commentary of Auerbach. Most of the scenes are extended takeout from already existing scenes and most run under a minute. The final extra is the interview with director Auerbach where she seems to sit in a theater answering questions that have been posted on the screen. There are questions such as what drew you to casting Emily Mortimer and what are your favorite scenes in the film. She is very thoughtful and calm while answering the many questions. An extra that I wished was added to this film would be shots taken from the set that could illustrate how she approached some of the scenes in the film. *** ---

Commentary: Shona Auerbach starts off the commentary with some very interesting comments on how and why she begins with close up shots. It continues with more information in regards to how she approached scenes and actors while explaining the characters with great detail. The whole commentary has Auerbach talking with a very quiet voice while giving the audience as much in-depth information as possible. This is commentary that oozes with the director’s affection for her work while she shares everything with the audience without holding anything back. Of all the commentaries I have heard, this is probably one of the better ones and definitely is worth listening to, especially for aspiring filmmakers. ***
Final Words: Dear Frankie offers a moving story of a child’s desire to see his dad and a mother’s unconditional love for her son. The film will undoubtedly cause tears to flow and laughter to surface, which indicates that this is a genuinely solid film. This is a film that is recommended both a purchase and a rental viewing, but it still would be recommended for a purchase even before the initial viewing. ***


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