Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska
Starring: Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn, Jamie Sives, Billy Boyd, Sean McGinley
Director: Gaby Dellal
Frank (Peter Mullan) has major issues. Job-wise, he’s a fresh victim of the redundancy plague at the shipyard where he’s worked all his life, leaving him down-in-the-dumps and stripped of his honour and income. It doesn’t help that he’ll be facing a stack of long, empty hours with nothing to do for the remainder of his life. As though this isn’t bad enough, there lies no consolation in his personal arena, for step into his home turf and you’ll see a similar downhill trend: he can’t talk to his wife about anything and his relationship with his son hangs by such a thin thread that they might as well be strangers. Almost sounds like a classified cry for help: ‘Obsolete job, lost love-life, relationship ruts, what’s a man to do?’
Instead of seeking out a life coach, Frank gets a brainwave. Why not swim the English Channel? Indeed, he has a talent for bathing at the local pool with his mates, and their support, coupled with his sheer determination, might just get him to the other side of the sea. And maybe, just maybe, all his problems could be fixed as a result…
Even though ON A CLEAR DAY is refreshingly far away from Hollywood fare, it has a certain deceptive Hollywood quality about it; a lingering hope that the process of a singular action will bring everything into equilibrium. However implausible this is in real life, one can’t deny that it always manages to uplift even the worst of moods. What can certainly be appreciated in this film is that it isn’t wishy-washy-cardboard-nonsense which makes us question the integrity of the story (so far-out it’s deemed ludicrous), but a genuine recital of hope that lets us feel oddly comforted on a real level, despite its basis in fabrication.
ON A CLEAR DAY is simple. No, our man Frank isn’t trying to end world debt and poverty by splashing across the Channel, he’s trying to deal with his own problems. His outlet is great, part physical, part mental, part something unique deep inside. As a sort of Everyman, his troubles are ones that we are all familiar with. Thus we not only understand what is happening every step of the way – and not in a mind-numbing kind of way – but can also relate to it. Lastly, this is a very sensual film with all-round dedicated performances (yes, Billy Boyd, he of Hobbitland, is also in this for comic relief).
To me the film broke no new ground. It didn’t make my heart thump deafeningly, but it didn’t make it stop either! It’s one of those cases that warrants a look simply because its existence is the most natural thing in the world. It doesn’t scream loudly, oppressively, CHECK ME OUT! but rather invites you to spend its duration enjoying its little spark in a gentle, understated way.
A family movie worth a catch.