On a Clear Day (2005) / Drama-Comedy

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some language
Running Time: 98 min.

Cast: Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn, Sean McGinley, Jamie Sives, Ron Cook, Benedict Wong, Jodhi May, Billy Boyd, Anne Marie Timoney
Director: Gaby Dellal
Screenplay: Alex Rose
Review published July 29, 2006

Set in Glasgow, Scotland, On a Clear Day stars Peter Mullan (Trainspotting, Session 9) as Frank, a hard working husband and father struggling to make ends meet after losing his longtime job that required 12-hour workdays, and consequently, little time to spend with his wife (Blethyn, A River Runs Through It) and family.  After being made redundant, Frank finds seeking a new career to be too traumatic to bear, resulting in a nervous breakdown, leaving his wife to fetch a job for herself to support them.  After a short cruise to relax, Frank redirects his focus in life to pursue what many feel is a crazy dream: to swim across the English Channel separating England and France.  

There’s little more to the story than one man trying to sublimate everything that has given him anguish in life into one major accomplishment.  Given that it’s another “career change” comic drama made in the style that many such feel-good films have been made since The Full Monty, we pretty much know what to expect from this simple tale of one man’s obsession in making something of himself after everyone tells him he won’t amount to much. Joining the ranks of such films as Calendar Girls, Brassed Off, Greenfingers and Kinky Boots, there are enough of these formula films to justify that video stores create a new genre section just for feel-good films about wash-ups finding redemption through frivolous pursuits.    

First-time screenwriter Alex Rose’s plot might have come off as too manipulative if in the wrong hands, but director Gaby Dellal brings out the humanity in the tale without becoming overly sticky or maudlin.  The excellent cinematography by frequent Dellal collaborator David Johnson (Alien vs. Predator, An Ideal Husband) helps, especially in capturing the outdoor elegance of the ocean and beaches in all their tranquil beauty.  

The flashbacks to events that took place in the past do lend a bit of an explanation as to Frank’s determination to pursue an outwardly pointless endeavor, although these tend to be some of the moments where Dellal loses that sure hand on the tone of the film, giving us the shaken up state of mind that Frank is feeling in an all-too-obvious fashion.  The side stories involving Frank’s friends are played up for cuteness or humor value, but outside of lightening the mood of the overall piece, they serve no actual purpose to the story or themes.

On a Clear Day is thoughtful and sentimental enough to please audiences looking for something uplifting, but, like Frank, it is redundant to a large degree.  Still, it hits its marks more often than not, and the quirky characterizations make for an easy watch, so long as you aren’t expecting the impact of the story to be life altering.  The profound moments aren’t explored with enough depth to have most audiences truly moved, but the happier parts are presented richly enough to leave you smiling once it concludes.

Qwipster's rating:

©2006 Vince Leo