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On a Clear Day (PG-13)

Release Date: April 7th, 2006 by Focus Features.
The Cast: Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn, Billy Boyd, Ron Cook, Shaun Dingwall, Jodhi May, Sean McGinley, Paul Ritter, Jamie Sives.
Directed by Gaby Dellal.
In Russian with subtitles.

BASIC PREMISE: At the age of 55, Frank (Mullan) decides to swim across the English Channel after being laid off from his job as a shipbuilder.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Peter Mullan gives a decent performance as Frank, who essentially goes through a mid-life crisis after getting laid off from work. He is haunted by the accidental death of his young son and barely speaks to his remaining son Rob (Sives). Likewise, he doesn’t get along with his wife, Joan (Blethyn). It takes him a while to realize what he really wants to do to channel his angry emotions: to swim across the English Channel. Until that point, the plot meanders at a sluggish pace. Most of the attempts for dry Scottish humor fail, but at the least the drama somewhat hooks you—but only if you can get used to the slow pace. His wife is too busy failing a bus-driving test over and over to notice that he’s training for the big swim. His friends, Danny (Boyd), Eddie (McGinley), Norman, and Chan (Wong) help him along the way. Fortunately, by the time Frank jumps into the English Channel three-quarters into the plot, it’s easy to root for him. Even the third act is quite predictable, director Gaby Dellal manages to increase the suspense with a well-chosen musical score and great camerawork/editing during the big swim. If only screenwriter Alex Rose would have included more surprises and tension during the first and second acts, the third act would have been much more powerful.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Frank’s courage to face his painful memories regarding his deceased son makes for a few very emotionally-absorbing scenes, particularly in the third act. Even though he doesn’t always show it, he actually has a good heart. The problem is that he bottles his emotions too often without expressing them. His adventure across the English Channel represents a journey both physically and emotionally—along with an uplifting ending.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Not enough plot tension and humor.


IN A NUTSHELL: Emotionally absorbing and ultimately uplifting, but it occasionally drags without enough plot tension or Scottish humor.


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