Nine-year-old Frankie and his single mum, Lizzie, have been on the move ever since Frankie can remember, most recently arriving in a seaside town. Wanting to protect her deaf son from his abusive father, Lizzie, writes Frankie a make-believe letter from his father telling of his adventures away at sea. As Frankie tracks the ship's progress around the globe, he discovers that it is due to dock in his hometown. With the real ship arriving in only a fortnight, Lizzie must choose between telling Frankie the truth or finding the perfect stranger to play Frankie's father for just one day.

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In spite of the simple sentiment and at times implausible, light-on script, it's hard not to be seduced by this.

While Young Adam makes its presence felt in Australian cinemas, this week sees the release of another Scottish film, Dear Frankie.Dear Frankie is as warm and sweet a film as Young Adam is dark and cold. It reunites two of its stars, Emily Mortimer and child actor Jack McElhone. They play Lizzie and Frankie, a mum and son on the run from an abusive ex-husband and father. In order to protect Frankie from the truth she fabricates the lie that he is away at sea. Consequently Frankie, who is hearing impaired, spends much of his time writing letters to his fantasy dad with Lizzie replying to them. Eventually the crunch comes and she decides to hire a ?man with no name? to continue the ruse. Phantom of the Opera star Gerard Butler plays the enigmatic stranger who pretends to be Frankie's AWOL dad.

Dear Frankie
is a confident debut feature directed by former photographer Shona Auerbach, who also lensed the film herself. It's not hard to pick Auerbach's shutterbug background; the film is lovingly photographed and the images are shadowy and naturally lit. The musical part of the soundtrack is also just as restrained and easy to slip into, eschewing sentimental manipulation. The sequence where Frankie and his ?pretend? dad go skimming stones at the beach is one of the highlights of the film, accompanied by Damien Rice's lovely song 'Delicate' from his album 'O'. Seems Mr. Rice is becoming the darling of music supervisors for film, his song The Blower's Daughter, used in the opening and closing credits of Mike Nichols caustic relationship drama Closer, has helped boost sales, hauling him from relative indie obscurity into the limelight.

While Dear Frankie, is a film about an absent father, it also focuses on the lengths a mother will go to protect her child. Last year's Georgian film Since Otar Left, also directed by a female filmmaker, explored similar territory. An adult mother hasn?t the heart to tell her elderly mother that her son has died. The denial of heartbreak is a theme, that if told well, makes for a fascinating film experience, which for many Since Otar Left was.But that was a decidedly uncompromising arthouse feature; Dear Frankie is a humble, more predictable offering to the mainstream (it isn't being distributed by Disney for nothing). That's not to say it is a bad film, though it won't challenge audiences the way Since Otar Left did.

In spite of the simple sentiment and at times implausible, light on script, it is actually pretty hard not to be seduced by Dear Frankie. It is told with such restraint, and boasts excellent performances, Mary Riggans as Lizzie's chain-smoking protective mum Nell almost steals the show, rivalling Cloris Leachman in Spanglish for the eccentric-matriarch-sage-role-of-the-year award. Dear Frankie is also another film that explores the absent father syndrome in a marine setting, like Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and last year's Polish drama The Return. It's not quite as wonderful as either, but Dear Frankie possesses a certain grace and charm that is quite irresistible.