Dear Frankie Shona Auerbach

Somewhere in Scotland, a single mother named Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) flees an abusive partner to safely raise her deaf nine-year-old son, Frankie, (Jack McElhone). However, the boy doesn't remember his dad and yearns for him. Instead of telling Frankie the harsh truth, Lizzie explains that his father is a sailor on the HMS Accra, a ship she gleans from a postage stamp. Frankie regularly writes his dad letters, which Lizzie intercepts. The letters reveal Frankie's innermost feelings and provide Lizzie the only window into her son's silent inner world. Posing as the fictitious father, Lizzie responds to Frankie's letters by recounting adventures in exotic lands. The ruse works until Frankie learns that the real HMS Accra will dock in his town. Now, Lizzie must tell Frankie the truth or find the perfect stranger to portray his father for one day. Drawing raves last year from Cannes to Toronto, Dear Frankie is enormously appealing. Its characters are flawed yet sincere, while the story is poetic but never melodramatic. First-time director Auerbach let's the story breathe, allowing for rich pauses and nuanced gestures between lines of dialogue. Mortimer has screen presence and carries the film; she gels perfectly with Gerard Butler, who plays "the stranger." The stranger starts off as a guy just doing a paid gig but gradually Frankie awakens his paternal instinct. Herein lays the film's surprising attraction for men: Dear Frankie is the rare film about fathers and sons and bridging the distances between them. Thankfully, the DVD comes with some fine extras. A nine-minute documentary reveals tidbits like that the Czech film Kolya was Frankie's inspiration. The director's interview offers further insight behind the film's creation, though at times it overlaps the director's commentary. Six deleted scenes (including a dreamy dance between Lizzie and the stranger) also feature commentary. Plus: director's commentary and interview, deleted scenes, documentary. (Alliance Atlantis)