Thursday, April 13, 2006

On a Clear Day

2004, UK, directed by Gaby Dellal

An enjoyable entry in that peculiarly British genre that mixes kitchen-sink realism with whimsy, On a Clear Day is a modest film set in working-class Glasgow, with a fine lead performance from Peter Mullan. He plays Frank Redmond, who's been made redundant from his shipyard job after a foreign takeover. Like many a unemployed man (or woman) before him, Frank is lost until he hits on the unlikely plan of swimming the English channel - a plan that he assiduously conceals from his wife (played by Brenda Blethyn) and family. The swim is not simply a means to filling in the days, however, for it's also Frank's awkward way of coming to terms with a long-ago family tragedy and with his own communication problems (Peter Mullan spends much of the film looking silently into the middle distance). While the swim is ultimately loaded with a bit too much psychological meaning to be entirely convincing, there's tremendous pleasure along the way from the able cast: Mullan is surrounded by a host of semi-familiar faces, with Billy Boyd (one of the hobbits from The Lord of the Rings), Sean McGinley and Benedict Wong especially enjoyable as several of Frank's pals. There's something appealingly Rocky-esque about the whole enterprise - but give me a thick Scottish accent over the incomprehensible Stallone any day.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States