Dear Frankie (2004), directed by Shona Auerbach, starring Emily Mortimer (Shutter Island, Cars 2), Jack McElhone (Nowhere Boy, Young Adam), Gerard Butler (300, RocknRolla), and Mary Riggans in a film about a mother who responds to her son’s letters as his father, and has to find a stranger to pose as the child’s father.
This is not the best movie I’ve ever seen–but it is an emotionally stirring tale, nonetheless. Dear Frankie is one of many films that captures the difficulties of motherhood and single parenting. It gives a seemingly bird’s eye view of genuine affection between a mother and her son. Lizzy (Mortimer) loves her son, Frankie (McElhone), who is deaf. She’d do anything for him–even if that meant forging letters to him–from his father–in order for her son not feel as if he were abandoned by his father. Frankie has a real father—however, his mother left him because he was an abuser, and the cause of Frankie being deaf. Frankie doesn’t remember his real father—who he was or what he looks like because every month, his mother would write a letter from Frankie’s “dad.” When she does, she would buy a different postage stamp, which are from the destinations his father supposedly last visited. Frankie’s mother told him that his father was a crewman aboard a freighter named the Accra.
Deception can only last for so long, and the truth will always see the light of day. As it so happens, the Accra will dock in Glasgow, where they live, which means his mother has to come up with a “father” for Frankie. So much depends on him meeting his father, including a bully at school challenging Frankie to bring his dad to so that he would not lose a bet he had with his new friend. He bet that Frankie really did not have a dad–which in turn Frankie wrote about in one of his letters to his father. So his mother inquired with her boss at the local fish and chips–and she came up with a replacement father for Frankie.
“The Stranger,” (Butler) or Davey–whom reveals nothing of himself–really does not want to pretend to be some kids father. When Lizzy meets him at a local coffee shop, he was abrasive in his responses. Lizzy agrees to pay “the stranger” (Butler) for his time with Frankie for one day. She gave him the letters to read that were sent by Frankie to his “father.” Reluctantly, he agrees. When finally meeting Frankie–he gave him a book on marine life, which is Frankie’s favorite past time. His mother was also shocked at the gift. Now, if any other point in the film was made to make you feel at any moment like tearing—this was it. When Frankie was handed the book on marine life, this sealed the bond between Frankie and “the stranger,” Davey–as his “real” father’s name is Davey. But what he hadn’t counted on–was becoming attached. He decides to stay an additional day with Frankie. Davey did not expect to care about the boy, but he did. Soon, he also realizes that he cares for Frankie’s mother.
I was pleasantly surprised by this film. This movie had all the necessary and careful moments that allows for the viewer to genuinely care for these broken and wounded individuals. Lizzy and her mother, living on the run from her former, abusive, husband. Her mother, searching the papers every day for any indication that Frankie’s real father was looking for them. It was incredible to watch as McElhone personified his role, not only in his portrayal as a deaf character, but the believable ability to cause the viewer not to simply guess, otherwise.