||On a Clear Day
2005 - PG-13 - 98 Mins.
|Director: Gaby Dellal|
|Producer: Sarah Curtis and Dorothy Berwin|
|Written By: Alex Rose|
|Starring: Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn, Jamie Sives, Billy Boyd, Benedict Wong |
|Review by: Jennie Kermode
Twenty six years ago, shipbuilder Frank's young son drowned whilst playing on a beach. Now Frank is fifty five, and has just lost the job in which he has spent his whole life working. Lacking any purpose or direction, he struggles to relate to those around him, especially his surviving son. These are familiar elements of the sort of grim Scottish drama we have all grown used to seeing, but in the hands of director Gaby Dellal (making her feature debut) they are transformed into something quite different - a story of hope. Inspired by a casual comment
Meeting of the polar bear club
from a friend, Frank sets out to find a new way of proving himself by swimming the English Channel. In the process, he faces down his old demons and seeks forgiveness for the ways in which he feels he has failed his family.
'On a Clear Day' is a tremendously endearing
film which will have a strong appeal to those tired of the cynicism of modern cinema. It's also a bold political statement, asserting that there
can be a positive side to unemployment and examining the changing social roles available to men, but its political agenda is never pushy. There's plenty of story here, and a number of well developed characters, so you can set aside fears that you'll be going to watch a man swim up and down a pool repeatedly - what star Peter Mullan calls "the most boring thing in the world". Mullan's five months of intensive training got him into good shape for the role, and his impressive physical acting shows that he understands the challenges faced by endurance swimmers, even if his stroke is deliberately overelaborate. It's hard to accept that a man spending hours with his head submerged in fifteen degree water wouldn't have contracted crippling hypothermia, and there are other oddities here, like a drive from Glasgow to Dover which seems to be accomplished in well under the standard eight hours, but these are easy enough to overlook
when one considers that the core of the film is not a physical journey but an emotional one.
Peter Mullan's performance is excellent throughout this film, and he is ably supported by an accomplished cast. Dellal acquits herself well as a director of children, with good work on show from several newcomers. Brenda Blethyn adds balance to Frank's life as his loving wife Joan, from whom he attempts to keep his ambition secret even whilst she is keeping secret her training to become a bus driver. Whilst this is a male dominated film centered on physical activity, it eschews any macho tendencies in favour of a humourous, affectionate study of its protagonists' relationships and changing lives.
If there is a major flaw in 'On a Clear Day', it's that the story is a bit too simple, with characters getting what they want a bit too easily. Despite a well-handled twist at the end, it feels more like fantasy than reality, and it might have worked better had it been a bit rougher at the edges. There are relatively few surprises, but Mullan describes it as a film about trust, and the viewer, too, can safely trust in Frank. Anyone who misses old fashioned feel-good movies will find
this a delight.
This film is due to be released Theatrically in the US in April 2006. Now playing in the UK.