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" They should have sent a poet "
— Jodie Foster, Contact

MRQE Top Critic

Creed II

It's all about the importance of character and the ability to face life's challenges. —Matt Anderson (review...)

Creed II

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Dear Frankie is a feel-good movie about a boy and a father. There are people who don’t like being manipulated that way by movies, but Dear Frankie works. It feels good.

The Miramax DVD release has all the extra features you’d expect, but with very few exceptions, these don’t work.

Some Day His Ship Will Come In

Frankie dad's ship will come in
Frankie dad’s ship will come in

A single mother has been raising her only son to believe that his father really exists. “Dad” is a sailor on a big ship. “He” sends postcards and letters (written by mum) to a local P.O. Box where mum picks them up and delivers them to Frankie.

Frankie is deaf and mute (but he’s a champion lip-reader). He isn’t the most popular boy at school, and he often retreats into books. His favorites are books, videos, and even newspaper timetables about ships and the sea. His schoolyard tormentor gets the better of him one day, teasing him about his absent father. Frankie responds with a threat and a promise that his dad will be here soon — he’s seen the timetables and his father’s ship (a name mother picked from out of the blue) is arriving in just a few days.

Mom soon finds out, in disbelief and then distress, that “dad’s” ship is coming in. So she scrambles to find a man she can hire for a day to play Frankie’s father. He can’t be a local because the small town holds no secrets. Her friend hooks her up with a tall, haggard, mysterious stranger. If you’ve seen the trailers, it’s not spoiling anything to say that Frankie’s hired father may be a better fit for their family than mother could have ever hoped.

If I were more cynical, I could recommend seeing only the trailer and skipping the movie. There’s really nothing to the story that isn’t captured by the promos. But of course there’s more to watching a movie than simply finding out the ending.

No, the reason to see Dear Frankie is not so much the story, but to let yourself be emotionally manipulated (and I admit it, am a sucker for this kind of movie). The emotion in Dear Frankie tugged at my heartstrings, but not so strongly that I started to gag. And because the film is genuinely Scottish, and not some Americanized, Disneyfied, schmaltz, it was easy to enjoy it on its own humble terms. The emotion in Dear Frankie feels like it’s coming from a na├»ve heart, and not from some Hallmark shill.

DVD Extras

The Miramax DVD release has a lot of features, and if you absolutely loved the movie, they might be interesting. But to the casual viewer, they are a waste of time. The worst feature is the audio commentary. Director Shona Auerbach has a soothing voice that will put you to sleep, and rather than providing insights, she simply narrates the movie. Occasionally she’ll break the monotony with an “I love this part.” But after ten or fifteen minutes, I couldn’t take any more.

“The Story of Dear Frankie” isn’t quite as bad. It tells us that the Czech film Kolya was the inspiration for this film, and that Auerbach’s short film Seven also had a child at its center. But most of this featurette is actors describing their characters and complimenting each other. It’s the usual stuff, with very little of interest.

Even the best features aren’t outstanding. The seven deleted scenes shed light on how the film might have been different. Some scenes, left in, would have merely made the film longer, but two or three of them are pretty powerful, as short as they are. And the video interview with Auerbach gives much more interesting information than either the commentary or the featurette, although even this seems pretty tame and bland. There are no shocking behind-the-scenes secrets to be found here.

Picture and Sound

The movie is presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio. Auerbach is credited as the director of photography, which is unusual. Her photographic skills are very good and served well by the DVD transfer. Sound is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1.