Though the sentimental Dear Frankie could easily have been fodder for melodrama and mush, first-time director Shona Auerbach brings together a family drama that rings true, even in its most unlikely turns. Protective single mum Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) has been lying to her 9-year-old boy, Frankie (Jack McElhone), about his abusive father, making up a story about the old man being a sailor away at sea on a fictitious ship called HMS Accra. Frankie dutifully sends him letters, which Lizzie intercepts; she then writes Frankie back, posing as his dad. The ruse hums along fine until Frankie hears that a real ship named Accra is scheduled to come to port in their Scottish town, and Lizzie has to hire a handsome stranger (Gerard Butler) to pose as Frankie's pop. The movie hinges on whopping coincidence, but the actors all tread carefully with their emotions, giving the film the necessary credibility to make the tender moments honest and smart yet still handkerchief-worthy.
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