Best Romance, 2004 - 5 stars
Sweet Romance Involving Moral Delimma
A Scottish mom tries to maintain a relationship via post between her nine-year-old deaf son and a made-up father, while on the run from his real, abusive father. This won Best Picture at the Los Angeles Film Festival, awards at Heartland and Seattle International Film Festivals, two thumbs up from Ebert & Roper, and a rave review from Leonard Maltin. Independent director Shona Auerbach's brings a rare sensitivity to this her debut film.
Working mom Lizzie (Emily Mortimer - Two Brothers & A Bride, Disney's The Kid) is faced with the moral dilemma of either telling her son the truth: that his absent father was abusive to him, and that is why he is now deaf; or, propagating a lie - that his father is a sailor away at sea, who writes to him regularly, expressing his love for and interest in the boy - letters which she herself writes. And Frankie, her son (Jack McElhone - Young Adam), answers them, as he tracks the path of his dad's ship on a world map hanging by his bed. Lizzie keeps telling herself that she is going to stop writing the letters and tell him the truth; but she continues. When asked why, she says, "It's the only way I can hear his voice." You see, Frankie has never spoken, except through his letters.
A crisis occurs one day when the ship that she told Frankie his father was stationed on actually shows up in port. One of the boy's friends makes a bet that his dad won't come see him; but Frankie accepts his bet, saying that he'll bring him to their next soccer match. Lizzie decides she can't let Frankie down, and that she will have to find someone to play the part of Frankie's dad for a day. After a failed attempt at finding someone in a sailors' bar, and a night of desperate depression, her friend Marie (Sharon Small - Inspector Lynley Mysteries) offers to help by giving her the name of a Stranger. The Stranger (Gerard Butler - Phantom Of The Opera, Attila) turns out to be more than Lizzie bargained for: not only is he the perfect "father" for Frankie, but she finds herself being drawn to him emotionally as well. There is a definite chemistry between Lizzie and the Stranger, and between the Stranger and Frankie.
Now she really does face a dilemma. She has spent years building walls around her heart and life to protect herself and her son from his abusive father, as well as trying to put miles between them and him. They are literally on the run as he continues to pursue them. Now, here is a Stranger asking her to let her walls down. What should she do? And what should she tell Frankie about his father?
There are no easy answers. She's going to have to give up some things in order to have certain other things. She's going to have to decide what's most important. That's not so simple in relationships where you're afraid of hurting the ones you love, and when you've been hurt and are afraid of being hurt again. I love these types of stories because they are like life: you have to give up something or someone you want for something or someone else you need or want more. Life is about choices. Will Lizzie make the right ones? It's a great dilemma, and a great film.
This is an incredibly poignant film, which pulls on your heartstrings throughout; and an honest story that unfolds naturally and leaves you wanting more. The performances are top-notch all the way around. Production values are high, as Auerbach realizes her vision perfectly. This is a little film with a big heart that will leave men longing for their fathers and women longing for Gerard Butler, the current heartthrob, as well as an excellent actor with a promising future.
Waitsel Smith, February 6, 2007
Text © 2007 Waitsel Smith. Images © 2003 Pathe Fund Limited. All Rights Reserved.
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