a Clear Day
Directed by: Gaby Dellal
Starring: Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn,
Sean McGinley, Jamie Sives, Benedict Wong, Billy
Released by: Focus Features
Short: First-rate performances can't quite
save this kind-hearted yet predictable drama
from the deep blue sea.
Sentimental Script Weighs Down a Watery Journey
speaking, three schools of British drama have crossed
the pond: (1) the "If Only We Had Done Things Differently
When We Were Younger, We Wouldn't Feel Such Pangs of Regret
Now" School (“The Remains of the Day”),
(2) the "Watch Out or You'll End Up with Your Head
in a Toilet" School (“Trainspotting”),
and (3) the "God Bless Us Every One" School
(anything Dickens). “On a Clear Day” manages
to combine all three, with muddled results.
not sure what the movie's title signifies, since most
of the action has to do with water. Frank (Peter Mullan)
is a fiftysomething shipbuilder in gloomy Glasgow who's
lost his job as the film begins. After the compulsory
sulk-fest, he embarks on a daft mission to swim across
the English Channel. The results are a sort of "Billy
Elliott and the Deep Blue Sea," in which the protagonist
exorcises demons by means of an all-consuming activity,
assisted by a heh-heh-quirky passel of mates with demons
of their own.
the Channel is all-consuming. It's over 21 miles across
(that's 1,360 laps in a swimming pool, or about 15 hours),
and the temperature rarely rises above 57 degrees Fahrenheit.
Yet despite this daunting challenge, somehow it was hard
to root for Frank with the same enthusiasm as we did for
the young, fleet-footed Billy.
that's because Frank is a stoic whose nature is to endure
rather than to strive (see School 1 above). Plus, the
numerous B-stories, while well-delivered, are also pat:
one of Frank's mates is stuck in a miserable janitorial
job (see School 2), Frank's wife (Brenda Blethyn) just
can't seem to pass the bus driver exam and Frank himself
is estranged from his son (Jamie Sives). It’s clear
from these characters’ stalled-out lives where they
are ultimately going to end up (see School 3).
actors are marvelous and their performances deep,
yet none of it quite overcomes the shallow sentimentality
of the script. After so much water, we emerged from
the theater dry eyed.