ON A CLEAR DAY
When Frank (Peter Mullan) is retrenched after 35 years working for the Glasgow shipyards, he is at a loss. He has never recovered from the drowning death of one of his twin sons 25 years ago, and his relationship with his surviving son, Rob (Jamie Sives) now grown up, is strained. A casual remark from his former colleague and friend Danny (Billy Boyd) that on a clear day he could swim to France, starts Frank thinking, and with the support of his friends Norman (Ron Cook), Eddie (Sean McGinley) and local fish and chip shop owner Chan (Benedict Wong), he starts his research and training at the local pool. He keeps his plans a secret from his loving wife Joan (Brenda Blethyn), who has her own secret - to get her bus-driver's licence.
Review by Louise Keller:
When Peter Mullan's Frank makes a bid to swim the English Channel, there is much more at stake than simply reaching the other side. On a Clear Day is an inspiring and uplifting story about self respect. Moving and involving, the film takes us into the lives of characters that go from despair to elation. There's a key moment when we sense Frank cannot sink any lower. He has lost his job, motivation and direction, and his relationships are forced. He walks into the sea fully clothed, and suddenly it is as though he is refreshed. Things seem clearer and he begins on a course that changes not only his life, but the lives of those around him.
The flash backs with references to the young son Frank lost years ago are a little confusing, but the central issues of the complex relationships between husband and wife, father and son, colleague and friend are well portrayed. Mullan gives a superb performance as a man whose demons have caught up with him. Swimming is his obsession, and training at the local pool, he observes a young disabled child determined to splash his way to the other side. As he watches, he registers that he is watching determination and courage in action. If Frank needed additional motivation, he has found it.
Emotionally the film hits us hard as Frank battles cramps, exhaustion and the icy seas, and finally confronts his greatest demons, as the past catches up with him. Jamie Sives is effective as Frank's estranged son Rob and the unexpected inclusion of Benedict Wong's Scottish-Chinese fish and chip shop proprietor with his own problems, is a fresh surprise. The climactic swim, when family and friends show their support, has all the elements of anticipation, suspense and drama. Don't be surprised if a few tears trickle down your cheeks. Director Gaby Dellal steers the story in the right direction without excessive sentimentality, resulting in a rewarding and enjoyable film in the vein of Billy Elliott and The Full Monty.
Email this article
ON A CLEAR DAY (PG)
CAST: Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn, Billy Boyd, Ron Cook, Jamie Sives, Sean McGinley, Jodhi May, Benedict Wong
PRODUCER: Dorothy Berwin, Sarah Curtis
DIRECTOR: Gaby Dellal
SCRIPT: Alex Rose
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Johnson
MUSIC: Stephen Warbeck
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Leese
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: South Australia: April 13, 2006; Western Australia: May 4, 2006; Other states: May 11, 2006