One of the few British movies to show at Cannes last year, Shona Auerbach's feature debut is a touching if rather manipulative charmer that gets by on the strength of its lead performances. Emily Mortimer is the Scottish single mum who protects her deaf son from his abusive dad by pretending he's away at sea. The problems start when she has to produce this imagined father, forcing her into an uneasy arrangement with an enigmatic stranger (Gerard Butler).
Following in the footsteps of countless rites-of-passage Brit-flicks (Billy Elliot, Purely Belter), Dear Frankie could easily have crumbled under the weight of its mawkish sentiment. Fortunately there's a salty flavour to Andrea Gibb's tear-jerking script, and Mortimer refuses to court easy sympathy as the parent whose entire relationship with her child is founded on deception. Butler, meanwhile, never puts a foot wrong as the mystery man who comes to enjoy his paternal role.