Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 7, 2006 Released by: Focus Features
This Glasgow-situated crowdpleaser is formulaic, but ingratiating mostly because of the very talented Scottish thespian, Peter Mullan (Young Adam).
On A Clear Day is an overly sentimental domestic comedy which starts out with some good social studies skills. That's regarding Mullan's middle-aged dockworker Frank losing his job after 30 years.
Similar to the British comedies like The Full Monty and Waking Ned Devine, there's a need to overcome crisis and reclaim one's dignity. Here, it's about being in a lot of salt water by getting in speedos and swimming the English Channel.
The screenplay by Alex Rose doesn't go beyond the familiar strokes to tread through all the necessary tension and resolutions. It's not necessary to believe Frank can do something this challenging at his age. The important thing for Frank is coping with the emotional times of his life, especially with his estranged, surviving son, Rob (a fine Jamie Sives), of a drowning accident 25 years ago.
Flashbacks and editing help bring the viewer closer to Frank's tenacity as he works his way out of a long depressed state. Mullan conveys this endearingly not unlike Anthony Hopkins's kiwi curmudgeon in The World's Fastest Indian. A scene with Frank watching a disabled kid trying to swim is surprisingly buoyant thanks to the supportive direction by Gaby Dellal.
This metaphorical tale concerns how Frank can be a role model for his fearful, derelict pals and get him back to his long-suffering wife (Brenda Blethyn) who aspires to be a bus driver. The formula of not letting go of self-respect seems to be uninspired over the long haul and the redundancy isn't helped by a leechy character acted by Billy Boyd who always seems to be around the fringes of the story.
Still, like the more likeable, road-trip picture starring Hopkins, On A Clear Day is watchable from its pellucid naturalism to the effortless way Mullan makes it go down without really sinking in all of the sentiment.
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