Mike Leigh spins silk out of shoestrings and Terence Davies can’t even get a foot in the financiers’ door, but somehow the U.K. film industry can always scrounge enough loose change from the cushions to foot the bill for a pre-chewed lump of sickly saltwater taffy like the mawkish Scottish-seaside postcard Dear Frankie. Emily Mortimer (last seen getting a big banging from Ewan McGregor while covered in custard and ketchup in Young Adam) plays single mother Lizzie, who’s been on the run from her violent husband for years; her deaf nine-year-old, Frankie (Jack McElhone), has no memory of his thuggish father, and Lizzie eagerly fills in this lacuna with tales of a fantasy sailor Dad on the high seas. When his supposed ship comes to dock at Frankie and Lizzie’s latest hometown, quick-thinking Mum recruits the Phantom of the Opera (stone-faced Gerard Butler, credited as simply The Stranger) to play Daddy, provoking many slushy soundtrack cues. The pat emotions contradict the lazily inconclusive life-goes-on ending, and the moral seems to be that kids just want to be lied to.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 22, 2005