Film Review **..: ...On a Clear Day... Struggles to Stay Afloat
Lighthearted British Drama Fails Attempts to Inspire
By Alice Macdonald
On a Clear Day
Directed by Gaby Dellal
Written by Alex Rose
Starring Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn,
On a Clear Day” centers around a middle-aged man, Frank (Peter Mullan) who is fired after years of hard labor at a boatyard. He is lost without the daily routine and freaks out, literally collapsing in the street. In order to reclaim his sanity and the admiration of his son (Jamie Sives) he does the most logical thing in the world — he attempts to swim the English Channel. Personally, I would have just found a good therapist, but hey — different strokes for different folks.
Frank is not only having trouble connecting with his son, but also with his wife (Brenda Blethyn), whom he lies to about his swimming endeavors. In turn, she lies to Frank about getting a job as a bus driver. The interactions between this husband and wife team, though rare, were a highlight of the film, as Mullan and Blethyn act their roles beautifully.
Frank’s posse of quirky Scottish friends, who actually aren’t that funny, attempt to provide the comedy. Hobbit fans will recognize Billy Boyd as Danny, a not-too-intelligent young man who looks up to Frank as a father figure. Frank’s cast of friends also includes an effete wimp, an Asian immigrant restaurant owner, and a faithful best friend. They come off as a bunch of caricatures with exaggerated mannerisms, not people the audience can believe actually exist. These flabby, hairy guys are also shown half-naked in the locker room a few too many times.
The film starts strong — the pacing, dialogue, and stylistic elements all come together — but around the halfway point, the film begins to drag and completely loses its charm. Most of the errors in the second half can be attributed to the lack of experience of the director, Gaby Dellal, and first-time screenwriter Alex Rose. Particularly glaring was the presence of a microphone boom in a mirror, which completely ruined what could have been a great scene between Frank and his wife. Unless you are really wrapped up in the first half of the film, several gems are not enough to last through the end.
Another essential aspect of “On a Clear Day” is the setting. The film was shot in the Isle of Man — a setting the filmmakers could have utilized more. Unfortunately, the movie could have been filmed anywhere, since most of the scenes take place at an indoor swimming pool or in the ocean.
Overall, “On a Clear Day” is a film teetering on the line of decency. Depending on who you are or your mood, it is possible that you will either completely love or utterly despise this film. I enjoyed certain aspects of the movie, including the fun Scottish accents and jargon, the excellent realistic tone, and some solid acting. But “On a Clear Day” just gets dragged down with shaky writing and a corny ending, failing at being an uplifting comedy-drama it tries to be. We are forced to watch Frank relive his young son’s drowning far too many times, and the dialogue becomes predictable as characters cheer (albeit with cool accents), “You can do it!” The film fails to stand out in the genre of very similar British works, including such movies as “The Full Monty” (1997), “Saving Grace” (2000), and “Calendar Girls” (2003). In fact, “On a Clear Day” — although fun at parts — is my least favorite of this set of films.