Movie Review: Dear Frankie, Iíve Got a Secret
The title of the film echoes the opening salutation on all the letters that 9-year-old Frankie (Jack McElhone) receives from his father, who works on a merchant ship that travels all over the world. The exotic stamps from foreign lands and the regular letters filling Frankie in on his dadís adventures brighten Frankieís dreary life in Scotland, where he lives with his sad-eyed mother Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) and his dour grandmother Nell (Mary Riggans).

Missing his father is but one of the hardships Frankie must bear, as is the fact that he is deaf and that his mother moves them from place to place so often that he has little to hang onto but a few possessions such as the map of the world on which he charts his fatherís travels.

Gradually, during the course of the film, as Frankie settles into this new seaside town, we learn that Lizzie, Frankieís mother, harbors a secret. She is the author of the letters from his imaginary dad, and they are actually in flight from his real father, whose abuse caused Frankieís deafness. Frankieís grandmother thinks Lizzie is wrong to perpetuate this lie, but Lizzie canít bring herself to tell her son the truth about his dad. And then, as luck would have it, when the ship that Frankieís dad is supposedly on arrives in their port, Lizzie must find a perfect stranger to play the perfect father for Frankie.

This film is by turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, but often humorous about the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her child. The cast is excellent, especially Emily Mortimer as Lizzie and Gerard Butler as the stranger who fills in admirably for Frankieís dad, and young Jack McElhone does a convincing job as Frankie. But this is a low-key character study of a child with a disability and a family in distress that will appeal more to adults and mature children (from, say, 10 or 11 on up) who donít require a diet of action and violence to hold their attention. Parents would be well advised to watch the film with their kids so that they can answer any questions, which will undoubtedly come up. The film is rated PG-13.

More Movie Reviews of new and recent releases.