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Dear Frankie
cast: Emily Mortimer, Jack McElhone, and Gerard Butler

director: Shona Auerbach

105 minutes (12) 2004
widescreen ratio 16:9
Pathé DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Shy but smart Frankie lives with his mother Lizzie and his tempestuous grandmother in a Scottish port, and writes detailed letters to his father, a sailor on a freighter. But unknown to him, the letters are intercepted and answered by his mother. Then the ship he believes his father to be aboard comes into port, and his mother decides to hire a sailor to pretend to be the boy's father. Father-son bonding, and romance with his mother, results, of course: but where is his real father, and who's placing those newspaper adverts begging his mother to get in touch?

Shona Auerbach's debut feature is an unashamed piece of romantic whimsy, all sunsets and wistful looks, childish trust and softening hearts. Accept its romanticised view of Scottish working-class life, and it's a thoroughly enjoyable evening's entertainment. The performances are great: Emily Mortimer's Lizzie is both tough and tender, and Jack McElhone's plucky Frankie steals the show, while Gerard Butler makes a sensitive, brooding substitute father. The port may be a little genteel than in real life, but it makes an effective backdrop, and the ending even manages to be satisfying without being mawkish, springing a few surprises in the final scenes. Relaxed and warm-hearted, and perhaps a tad predictable, Dear Frankie is the perfect date movie. Highly recommended for all romantics.

DVD extras include a director's commentary, a range of fairly brief deleted scenes, a director interview covering all the usual questions, a trailer, and Auerbach's rather abstract short film Seven.

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