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On A Clear Day
Anything is Possible
by Matt Forsman on Apr 20, 2006
After decades of earnest shipbuilding, Frank Redmond finds himself in the painful position of obsolescence. On the day a beautiful new ship is being christened, Frank is packing up his belongings and saying goodbye to the only job he has ever known. With free time on his hands, Frank does what any 55-year old in his position would do….train to swim the English Channel.
Naturally, a task as daunting as this requires more than training and determination. Fortunately, Frank has the support of his crew (motley though they may be) of fellow shipbuilders and misfits to egg him on. On A Clear Day bears some similarities to the sleeper comedic hit The Full Monty in that you have a group of men who have been laid off (or are about to be laid off) who rally around an unusual cause.
However, On A Clear Day leans more to the dramatic side as it becomes apparent that Frank's desire to swim the English Channel may have more to do with the obvious estrangement from his family than a genuine desire to achieve the "impossible". The source of the estrangement revolves around the death of one of Frank's sons who drowned when he was a young child. Despite the fact that Frank still has a loving wife and son, it's apparent that Frank has never managed to forgive himself for the death of his other son.
Peter Mullan does an excellent job of expressing the depths of Frank's pain and estrangement in a stereotypically masculine way. There is little that is verbalized or externalized. Frank is distant, seemingly detached, and yet clearly awash in feelings of guilt and anguish. Exactly how pronounced these feelings are becomes apparent when he hits the pool and furiously grinds out a series of laps at a frenetic pace.
Equally internalized is Frank's goal of swimming the channel. His wife and son know nothing of it initially. It is only Frank's shipbuilding cohorts who are aware of his goal. The performances of the actors portraying Frank's buddies are solid, if not unremarkable. The one standout performance is that of Billy Boyd (aka -- Pippin from The Lord of the Rings trilogy) who provides much of the humor in the film with his hare brained antics and bravado.
Eventually, Frank can no longer conceal his training or his aspiration to cross the English Channel from the family. While initially infuriated that Frank would conceal this from them, the discovery of Frank's endeavor serves as a catalyst for "the healing to begin". Frank's journey becomes less about crossing the English Channel and more metaphorical in nature.
On A Clear Day is a reasonably engaging film and doesn't fail to inspire to a certain extent. But, the source of Frank's estrangement from his family is only vaguely alluded to and it's challenging at times to believe that this family could have remained intact given decades of Frank's detached behavior. One would almost expect infidelity or other forms of self-medicating, yet this family seems remarkably (unbelievably) functional. Granted, anything is possible.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
by Matt Forsman on Apr 20, 2006