Produced by Sarah Curtis and Dorothy Berwin
Cast: Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn, Billy Boyd, Jamie Sives, Sean McGinley, Ron Cook, Jodhi May, Benedict Wong.
A surprising and heartening film about resilience and recovery from tragedy and grief, On a Clear Day is set in present day
Economical direction by Gaby Dellal gives the unspoken, underlying subtext most effectively. Along with the grey, cold environment, it suits this taciturn man in a situation similarly affecting his friends and co-workers, suddenly cut adrift from an occupation with which heís identified all his life. One of his mates accepts a demeaning cleaning job from a supercilious and unfeeling management. Another intentionally maims his hand in a machine, in a sickening moment of desperation in the face of a bleak future. Frank turns up at the employment bureau to the double indignity of having to hand his form in to his estranged, unemployed sonís wife Angela (Jodhi May), and the official who greets him knows itís his first time there because Frank asks naively about a job instead of unemployment benefits. Without trapping us in too much gloom, the film manages to follow his downward spiral to a turning point hinged on the central tragedy of his life: a drowned son he was long ago unable to save, and that childís twin, now adult with twin boys of his own, from whom he has distanced himself in guilt and fear of additional loss. The utterly mad idea which is big enough, and impossible enough to turn the tide of hopelessness and depression, is to swim the
Itís in the way this idea first surfaces and then grabs hold, and the inspirational steps along the way Ė such as Aaron, the boy with cerebral palsy who swims at the pool where Frank trains so relentlessly, a child who puts everything heís got into flailing himself across the pool and who never gives up Ė that the skill of the filmmakers and the actors shows. Itís very much something we can all relate to, and Frankís reluctance about revealing his plan to his family, while increasingly appreciating the support of his gang of four friends, echoes his wife Joanís (Brenda Blethyn) shyness to reveal to Frank that she is learning to drive a bus.
The ripple effect of Frankís enormous effort spreads in an amusing and believable way to his family relationships and to his four friends, each of whom is less assertive than he could be, and who are each inspired to place more value on themselves through Frankís example, with more hope for the future.
Peter Mullan is a translucent, textured Frank, well matched by Brenda Blethyn as his pragmatic, optimistic wife. Son Rob is played by Jamie Sives with effectively dark hunted look and a driven urgency to be a good dad to his own boys. Frankís friends are Eddie (a solid Sean McGinley), Norman (played as a quintessential British clerk by Ron Cook, complete with cardigan and toothbrush moustache), Chan (Benedict Wong in a brilliant, understated depiction of a Chinese fishíníchip shop owner whom no-one has ever heard speak, and who serially surprises everyone), and Danny (Billy Boyd, off-the-wall-funny in a nutty Scottish way).
Despite being set in
© Avril Carruthers 10th May 2006
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