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by Willie Waffle

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On A Clear Day

Peter Mullan stars as Frank - a shipbuilding worker laid off after 36 years of service in the Glascow plant. It seems like the final insult in a tough life marred by the death of his 7-year old son years ago in a swimming accident. With nothing but time on his hands, troubles in his mind, and little to no hope for finding any work, Frank starts to spend his days swimming more and more at the local community center. Eventually, he decides to do something spectacular - he wants to swim the English Channel from England to France with only 6 months of training. However, will it be as difficult as navigating the turbulent waters of his life? OK, even I threw up a little bit reading that line, but the movie is much better and less sappy than my writing.

Can Frank do the impossible? Will he be able to quell all of the troubles and sadness that he carries with him? Can he repair the relationship with his surviving son?

While On A Clear Day takes its sweet time developing the story and characters, it delivers a fantastic ending that makes the journey to get there worth it and makes you happy you took a chance with your moviegoing dollars. Writer Alex Rose and director Gaby Dellal forsake obviousness for subtlety, which makes it harder to follow the story and what is influencing each character, and some aspects of the story could have been better explained (Exactly what happened on that fateful day when Frank's son died? Why does Danny (Billy Boyd) seem so immature?), but Rose and Dellal give us plenty to follow and enjoy as we see each of the characters trying to overcome some obstacle or challenge whether it is Frank's wife, Joan (Brenda Blethyn), trying to get a job as a bus driver to make ends meet for the couple, or Danny trying to get up the courage to ask a pretty girl on date. Rose and Dellal do a wonderful job showing us how each character grows, finds some inspiration from Frank, then try to help him when he needs it most, but the audience has to pay particularly close attention to catch all of the details and get what is happening in the story. If you do, the payoff is pleasing and emotional, especially as Rose and Dellal celebrate family, teamwork and the importance of our friends in our lives.

Mullan puts in a strong performance as the constantly dour Frank, but is smart enough to avoid making the character into an annoying sad sack. He is grim, but full of fire and determination as needed, which is put on display often enough for us to embrace the prickly character. The audience is compelled to watch his every move to get how Frank feels and reacts, even if we think we have it all figured out. Boyd almost steals the show as Frank's surrogate son who is goofy, funny and in need of some maturity, while Blethyn makes the most out of a role that should have been much bigger and meaningful.

On A Clear Day excels when we get to see the camaraderie between the guys, and as Mullan finally peals away the shell Frank put himself into for, "36 years, 12 hours a day, 5 days a week," and lets all of his pent up emotions come flooding out. If you're in the mood to discover a smaller movie this week, On A Clear Day fits the bill.

2 ½ Waffles (Out Of 4)

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