Dear Frankie is such a charming little film, and it grows on the viewer so gradually and has some nice little surprises to boot, that I am almost inclined to say, "Just see it first, and then we'll talk." However, that wouldn't satisfy my editors, so review it I shall.
The film is about a woman named Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) who moves to Glasgow with her deaf 9-year-old son Frankie (Jack McElhone) and her chain-smoking mother Nell (Mary Riggans). We gather early on that Lizzie and her family have moved often. Frankie, in one of many letters that he writes to the absent father he never knew, explains to his Da—Frankie's pet name for his dad—that Grandma said another move would kill her, to which Ma replied, "Don't tempt me."
Why the family keeps moving, and why Frankie's father has been away for so long, are not explained at first, but we sense there is an unusual story behind this. It could hardly be more unusual than what we do know, though. We soon learn that all of Frankie's letters are received and answered not by his father, but by his mother. Frankie thinks his father is on a boat called the Accra, which has been sailing the world for years, but in fact, all his letters have been going to a post-office box set up by Lizzie because, as she puts it, reading Frankie's letters is the only way that she can hear his voice. Since it is not too hard to think of other ways that she could have encouraged Frankie to write his thoughts down for her, she may have other motives as well. For example, when writing to Frankie, she tells him to listen to his mother, and this may allow her to pretend for a bit that she has the support of another parent; and of course, deep down, she may sense that her boy needs a father.
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