On a Clear Day
Dir. Gaby Dellal. 2005. PG-13. 98mins. Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn, Billy Boyd, Ron Cook, Sean McGinley.
The uplifting working-class comedy/drama has been the little engine that could of the British film industry for the last decade. We’ve been given The Full Monty and Brassed Off and ogled the Calendar Girls. The key to all of these flicks is the balance of some lighthearted fun and a serious representation of how bad things have been for the English in the Thatcher era and beyond.
Clear Day works that formula with no apologies. Frank (Mullan, one of the great British actors who deserves more fame) has been laid off from his midlevel management job at the Glasgow shipyards. Having defined himself by his job at the expense of his family life, Frank is clearly adrift. Then he settles on a goal: He’ll swim the English Channel. He starts training with help from his pals (Boyd, Cook and McGinley, all very amusing), but hides the plan from his wife, Joan (Blethyn, wonderful as always). She has a secret of her own: She is covertly preparing to get a bus driver’s license. Gradually, the film reveals that Frank has personal reasons for choosing the Channel swim as a project.
Though the film feels rather muted, Dellal does a fair job of plucking the heartstrings at regular intervals, and there are few pleasures that beat watching old pros like Mullan and Blethyn make even the simplest scenes into lovely little moments of revelation.—Hank Sartin