Dear Frankie

Rated PG-13 2005

Shona Auerbach's quiet drama about a deaf nine-year-old (Jack McElhone) in small-town Scotland manages, for the most part, to avoid the usual traps -- emotional manipulation and outright sentimentality. The hanky count will get up there for some, but Auerbach never pushes it. The boy can lip-read, but his real lifeline is a series of letters he writes to his absent father, whom he believes to be away at sea. Truth be told (but not to Frankie), his mother Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) is in retreat from his abusive dad, and she's the one responding to the boy's plaintive letters. The charade cannot last, of course, and when Lizzie concocts a scheme to shield her son from reality, there are useful complications. Happily, the director and writer Andrea Gibb treat little Frankie with as much dramatic respect as the grown-up characters, and he saves the movie from killing sweetness. With Gerard Butler as the anonymous sailor Lizzie hires to stand in as the boy's dad.

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Dear Frankie

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