If other parents of kids on the spectrum have lives like mine, then they know how challenging it is to rent movies. Well, the renting part is not really challenging; it's the renting-to-watching hurdle that sometimes seems insurmountable. I can't begin to count the number of times we've rented movies with the idea that we'd settle down to enjoy the film once Bud was asleep only to discover that this was one of his won't-fall-asleep-till-11:00 nights, or one of his up-every-half-hour nights. Inevitably, we'd return the movie unwatched. Sometimes we'd muster up a never-say-die attitude and keep it, only to end up paying three days worth of late fees for an unwatched movie. Less frequently, we'd stumble into nights when Bud would be snoozing soundly by 8:30, but we'd find ourselves with nothing to watch and no late-night movie rental place nearby.
Then we discovered Netflix. Netflix lets us keep three movies at our house for as long as we want them. They don't care if we keep them for a month. They don't care if we watch them in 15 minute clips. We still don't watch a lot of movies, but when the desire to watch one intersects with the ability to watch one, we always have a new movie at the ready. Such was the case the other night, when we watched a delightful film called Dear Frankie.
Netflix describes the movie this way:
Faced with the prospect of raising her son, Frankie (Jack McElhone), with a good-for-nothing man, Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) spirits him away to Scotland and pretends the boy's father is aboard the HMS Accra. After years of pretending, including sending Frankie fake letters detailing his dad's adventures, the jig is up when Frankie learns the ship is docked by their home. Now, Lizzie must find a man to pose as Frankie's father … fast!
The description really doesn't do the movie justice. It doesn't mention, for example, that young Frankie is deaf. Now, I recognize that the "special needs" factor coupled with the "jig-is-up" Netflix description makes the film sound like a tedious, predictable Lifetime television movie. Luckily, however, Dear Frankie is able to walk the fine line that allows it to be heartwarming without becoming maudlin or saccarine.
The characters are realistic and engaging; the plot is intelligent and moving. And, in the end, it sends a message that can't be sent enough or in too many ways: never, never underestimate a child simply because he has a disability.
Rent it. You won't be disappointed.