Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch:
‘Dear Frankie,’ ‘The Upside of Anger’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the April 28, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

A beautiful new film titled Dear Frankie opened recently at the AMC 20 in Spokane. I saw this poignant film at the Uptown Theater near the Seattle Center a few days after Easter. To be honest, I wondered if this small Scottish film that was popular at last year’s Cannes Film Festival would make it to our part of the world. It has, and if you like fine acting and a story that warms the heart, Dear Frankie is for you.

Lizzie (Emily Mortimer), along with her mother and her hearing-impaired son Frankie (Jake McElhone), has just recently moved to Glasgow. They have moved quite often. We begin to realize that they are continually moving from a stalking ex-husband who hit Frankie as a small child and caused his hearing impairment.

Frankie has never known his father. His mother creates an unreal world to protect him. She tells him that his Dad is a seaman on a cargo ship that travels the world. It is okay for Frankie to write letters to a special post office box in Scotland where his letters will be sent to his world-traveling Dad. In the elaborate scheme Lizzie intercepts the letters. She then writes back under his Dad’s name and even purchases stamps from far-away countries from a stamp collector. In this way Lizzie knows what her son is really thinking even though he does not give oral communication.

The story begins to move when a friend of Frankie at Primary School tells him that the ship his Dad is on is actually going to be in Glasgow harbor for several days in a few weeks. The friend, Ricky, bets Frankie that his Dad won’t be on the ship and come and visit him.

So Lizzie is faced with problem of telling the truth or finding someone to pretend to be Frankie’s Dad for a day or so. With the help of a friend at work, she arranges for a seaman who is in town to pretend to be Frankie’s Dad.

The story gets very interesting and layered when Gerard Butler arrives, pretending to be Dad. The relationship between the stranger and the young boy develops as one of the happiest times in Frankie’s life. “Dad” even asks to visit Frankie and Lizzie, his mother, for a extra day or two. There is a magnetism between “Dad” and Lizzie also.

There are several subplots that add to the mystery and familial connection. Dear Frankie may be pushing the limits of plausibility, but it does so in a way that reminds viewers of the gift of love and family.

Young Jake McElhone is absolutely prize-winning as a child who so wants to communicate with his father. Emily Mortimer is wonderful as a mother who wants to protect her child from any more tragedy. Gerard Butler, who played the title character in The Phantom of the Opera, is impressive as the stranger playing a father. Director Shona Auerbach wonderfully tells a moving story.

Dear Frankie is the small film that often gets overlooked. It is a movie that faces into the human condition as it shows us what familial love is all about.

Because of language, Dear Frankie is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America. The U.S. Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates Dear Frankie A-III – adults.


In the world we live in it is treated as common knowledge that there are some times and places where it is good to let our anger out. Also, there is a general sense of agreement that continual anger hurts ourselves rather than the person with whom we are angry.

With excellent acting by Kevin Costner and Joan Allen, the entertaining new movie The Upside of Anger takes on the questions of how anger affects our lives and the lives of those we love.

The film opens with Terry Wolfmeyer (Allen) discovering that her husband has left her and her four daughters for a Swedish girlfriend. She assuages her anger with lots of alcohol. She stays in bed during the day and asks her daughters to cut her some slack.

The daughters, played by Erika Christensen, Keri Russell, Alicia Witt and Evan Rachel Wood, try to continue their daily routines of college life, work at a radio station and the ups and downs of high school. But it sure ain’t easy with a Mom in such a funk.

Down the road in this upscale Detroit suburb lives an unmarried former big-league baseball player who also has a drinking problem. Denny Davies (Costner) has a talk radio show where he rambles on about anything except baseball. He supplements his income by signing baseballs and being present at the opening of new malls.

Denny begins a beguiling courtship of Terry as he finds new meaning in his life, joining evening meals cooked by Terry’s daughters.

During this three-year span of time we watch as one daughter surprises her Mom with a quick marriage, another daughter tries hard to fulfill her dream of becoming a ballet star, while a third daughter seeks to find first love with a new student who eventually tells her that he is gay. It may seem like fairly ordinary melodrama. But it is portrayed interestingly by beautiful and talented actors.

Kevin Costner lets his maturing age show as he portrays a wounded but likable guy who once was famous and knows he is really not a celebrity anymore. Costner plays his role with realistic sadness and at times very good humor.

Joan Allen is terrific as usual as the bruised but angry Terry. She speaks her mind no matter how much it hurts her daughters or anyone else she is around. Her performance should not be forgotten when next February’s Academy Awards roll around.

It seems to be a fair question to ask how Terry can keep such a beautiful home without going to work on a regular basis like normal people.

Mike Binder, who wrote and directed the film, has a small part as the conniving producer of Denny’s radio show. He does a good job of playing a less-than-likable character.

For moviegoers who like an intriguing story told well by fine actors, The Upside of Anger is just the ticket.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates The Upside of Anger R – under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. There are sexual situations, strong language, and some drug use. The U.S. Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates The Upside of Anger L – limited adult audience, with content many adults would find troubling.

(Father Caswell is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, and Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane. His reviews frequently appear in the Cheney Free Press.)

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