Josh Bell

Just because a movie is British and/or independent doesn't excuse it from being predictable, sappy and manipulative. The British independent drama Dear Frankie is all three, and just because it features a patina of Scottish working-class grime and lacks a cute Hollywood actress doesn't mean it's great cinema.

It doesn't mean it's bad cinema, either; it's more like middling cinema, perfectly decent if you like predictable, sappy and manipulative movies that exist to do little more than make you cry, but no better than your average Meg Ryan movie. Ryan's part is played by Emily Mortimer, who brings a bit of restraint to her clichéd role of the independent-but-vulnerable single mother who's escaped a bad relationship and just wants to do what's right for her precocious, adorable kid, Frankie (Jack McElhone).

Not only is Frankie adorable and precocious, he's also deaf. How much harder can writer Andrea Gibb and director Shona Auerbach tug on your heartstrings? How about having Frankie write letters to his absent dad, whom he believes is sailing around the world, only to have them intercepted and answered by his mum? Not enough? How about the boat that Mum claims Dad is on, sailing into port, and Mum having to hire a mysterious stranger (Gerard Butler) to impersonate Frankie's dad? How about Mum and the mysterious stranger starting to share a Very Special Connection? Will she dare let another man into her heart even though she's been hurt before? Will Frankie figure out their elaborate ruse and have his little, precocious, deaf heart broken? Have you shed a tear yet?

If you have, you'll probably love this movie, and there's not necessarily anything wrong with that. It's only that you'd love it just as much if it starred Kate Hudson or Julia Roberts, and critics praising it as a nuanced, subtle drama are fooling themselves. Dear Frankie is a sticky ball of sap, and you shouldn't let its accent or film-festival appearances convince you otherwise.

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