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DEAR FRANKIE

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Director Shona Auerbach makes her feature debut with this gritty but sweet kitchen-sink drama set on the dirty industrial fringes of Glasgow, Scotland. Nine-year-old deaf Frankie (Jack McElhone), his struggling young mother, Lizzie (Emily Mortimer), and her cranky mum move from one cheap flat to another; Lizzie's on the run from Frankie's abusive dad. To sustain the sensitive and lonely lad, Lizzie drafts fake letters purportedly from Frankie's dad, whom she explains is away at sea. Only hoping to inspire Frankie, Lizzie pays a stranger (Gerard Butler) to be Frankie's dad for one day, with results that are both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It's a bittersweet fable about a wee lost boy finding a father, and in some respects, Dear Frankie is as fanciful as any fairy tale spun from wishes. Yet with its strong cast and quiet naturalism, the film manages to feel emotionally grounded and is ultimately quite affecting. Starts Fri., April 15. Squirrel Hill (AH)

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