Senior HTF Member
- Feb 24, 1999
Studio:MIRAMAX Year:2005 RunTime:105 minutes Aspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 1.85:1 (OAR) Audio:5.1 DD English, French Subtitles:English, SpanishSpecialFeatures:Feature Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Behind-the-scenes making-of documentary, Interview with director Shona Auerbach ReleaseDate:July 5, 2005
Dear Frankie is a heart-warming film that is emotionally compelling without falling prey to typical Hollywood formulas or saccharine embellishment. The film maintains a delicate balance of warmth, tension, and uncertainty. You may think you know where this film is going by the trailers you may have seen or from what you surmise based on the film’s premise, but director Shona Auerbach doesn’t making things quite so simple.
The premise is straight-forward: a mother who is estranged from her husband writes (forges) letters from her husband, who she has transformed into a mysterious sailor traveling the globe, to her hearing-impaired son as a way of giving him an imaginative escape from the stark life that they share in their small Irish town. Complications arise when a ship comes in to port bearing the same name as the ship conjured in her letters…and young Frankie sets out to meet his seafaring father.
Filming, writing, and acting are superb. Performances are first-rate including and especially the three primary characters: Frankie, his mother, and his “dad”. Emily Mortimer delivers an astonishing believable and heart-tugging performance as Frankie’s mother and protector. The years of hardship her character has endured lend a hardened edge and distrust that one can feel as an undercurrent in her motivations and decisions. The blend of this hardness with softness of her maternal care elicits a strong feeling of compassion and sympathy. Frankie’s character is no less impressive, and in many ways he sails through the film as the constant around which other forces grow and bend. His deafness is portrayed as no impairment at all, and his capacity to interconnect with those around him while at the same time retreating into his world of fantasy outshine the abilities of his peers. Gerard Butler delivers a believable performance that commands respect. The dynamic between him, Lizzie (the mother) and Frankie feels authentic and he manages to make his own inner journey visible to the viewer without falling victim to cliché annoyances.
The visual style of this film dark and somberly painted. Color, contrast, and film-grain all coordinate to deliver a very deliberate effect.
Two thumbs up to this marvelous film that manages to tug at the heart of the viewer and maintain its integrity as respectable work free from cinematic short-cuts. This is wholesome entertainment, and can be enjoyed equally by all audiences and age groups (though young children may find the pacing a bit slow and have difficulty understanding the thick Irish accents). Words cannot convey how nice it is to sit back and enjoy a film on the merits of good acting and storytelling. Not a single CGI effect that I could detect.
This DVD looks remarkably like the 35-mm projected theatrical print. Everything you may find right or wrong with the picture of this DVD is faithful to the source. Colors are muted and warm. Contrast lacks dynamics and blacks may occasionally feel a bit crushed. Film-grain is present most of the time and image softness is forcibly strong…on a wide-angle system the image will feel a bit out-of-focus and lack sharpness. And every one of these aspects of the image is true to how the image looked projected theatrically, and the DVD is doing its job.
Kudos to MIRAMAX for not cranking up the “Sharpness” dial to add lots of edge-haloing for the masses. Perhaps new things are afoot at the studio…as both this and another recent DVD (Bride & Prejudice) both deliver a smooth, natural, and graceful film-like demeanor on the big screen free from such electronically-modified nonsense. While some very minor edge-ringing may be visible when viewed at less than 1.5 screen-widths, I found no visibly distracting signs from my 1.6 screen-width viewing distance and I was keeping a sharp eye.
When you see this DVD, you may not feel that it objectively merits a top-notch video score due to the anomalies mentioned above. However, I’m reviewing the picture quality of the DVD, not the film-print, and since the DVD is being faithful to the source, I feel it deserves to score highly. While there may have been room for a fraction more resolution giving the limits of the DVD format, the folks at MIRAMAX have really delivered a very true-to-the-film encoding on this 5” disc and I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to review it.
Picture Quality: 4 / 5
:star: :star: :star: :star:
In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):
SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl)-- truly horrid. 2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain. 3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos. 4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back or the Fifth Element Superbit (full “5” would be sans EE).
The 5.1 DD soundtrack is very much what you’d expect for a film of this type; the dialog-driven mix is predominantly front-heavy with very little surround activity to boast. Frequency response and dynamics are limited to the non-aggressive but movingly lush musical score, which does bring in a wider and deeper sense of dimension while keeping in character with the “scale” of the rest of the soundtrack. Dialogue is clear and intelligible but you might find yourself reaching for the subtitle button on your remote just to discern what folks are actually saying given the at-times-difficult-to-understand accents and expressions. Because the English subtitle track is also for the hard-of-hearing, you’ll also be privy to printed lyrics to the music included in the film along with artist and song title.
Sound Quality: 3.5 / 5
:star: :star: :star: 1/2
[*]Feature Commentary: Wonderful to listen to. If you enjoy the film you should definitely take the time to listen to some of Shona Auerbach who goes into great detail about how her film came to pass, the selection of the cast, the evolution of the screen-play and everything else. I used to eschew listening to commentary as a rule as I felt it “ruined the magic” of the film. However, I’ve grown to find that taking the time to listen (after watching the film, of course) actually increases my appreciation for the myriad of subtle details and decisions behind the finished result we take so easily for granted.
[*]Deleted Scenes: Some very nice deleted, and extended scenes. You can listen with or without commentary. Most of these scenes would better served the film had they been left in-tact in the feature, and a few times the director even indicates she feels this was as well. I would have liked to have seen some of them find their way back in for the DVD.
[*]Making-of Documentary: A nice documentary in typical Disney/MIRAMAX style. Much of what is covered here is also mentioned in the full-length commentary but the “Story of Dear Frankie” documentary is a great clif-notes version and also includes some nice cast interviews.
[*]Interview with Director Shona Auerbach: A brief interview segment detailing the history behind the story and how it came to pass. Again, much of this will be covered in the full-length feature commentary but this is a nice synopsis that shouldn’t be missed.
Dear Frankie is a gem of a film. The DVD brings it to your home-theater with an image very faithful to the look of the projected film and with a nice handful of bonus features to add value for fans who’d like to know more about this wonderful film and those who brought it to life.
If you’re looking for a great film to bring home and share with the family, put this on your list. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.