Dear Frankie is a 2004 film, but just joined the features available on Amazon Instant Video. It was new to me, and thoroughly enjoyable.
Emily Mortimer is Lizzie, the mother of 9 year-old Frankie (Jack McElhone). Lizzie’s mother Nell was played with chain-smoking verve by the late Mary Riggans. The three of them have been on the run from Frankie’s father for years. Lizzie and her mother are guarded and restrained and remain that way throughout the film. The film is emotionally charged, but in a vigilant and contained way. Lizzie and her mom are holding it in, but just barely.
Lizzie’s been sending Frankie letters, pretending to be his father. She’s trying to protect him from the reality of what his father is. She made the mistake of naming a real ship the father was supposedly sailing on, and when that ship shows up in their town, she has a problem.
Lizzie’s new friend Maria (Sharon Small) comes up with a man willing to play the part of Frankie’s dad for a day (Gerard Butler).
The stranger turns out to be fantastic as a stand-in father and Frankie is thrilled by him. So is Lizzie. The stranger enjoys both Frankie and Lizzie so much he stays in the role for two days, before his real life as a sailor takes him away again. The first day faux-da and Frankie are together, Lizzie sneaks along behind, nervously watching their every move. The second day, Lizzie joins them.
In the midst of this pretend family bliss, Lizzie gets word that Frankie’s real father is dying. He’s an abusive man who almost killed both Lizzie and Frankie before she fled, and she refuses to let him see Frankie, although she does go talk to him herself.
I don’t want to reveal the ending, but it was a hopeful and satisfying one.
The film was directed by Shona Auerbach and written by Andrea Gibb. It is set in Scotland