On a Clear Day (2005)


(director: Gaby Dellal; screenwriter: Alex Rose; cinematographer: David Johnson; editors: Robin Sales/John Wilson; music: Stephen Warbeck; cast: Peter Mullan (Frank Redmond), Brenda Blethyn (Joan Redmond), Sean McGinley (Eddie), Jamie Sives (Rob Redmond), Billy Boyd (Danny), Ron Cook (Norman), Jodhi May (Angela Redmond), Benedict Wong (Chan), Andrew MacLennan (Andrew Redmond), James MacLennan (James Redmond), Paul Ritter (Mad Bob), Tony Roper (Merv the Perv); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Dorothy Berwin/Sarah Curtis; Focus Features; 2005-UK)
“There’s an audience for this sort of mush, but don’t count me in the mix.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Cornball inspirational feel-good melodrama set in contemporary Glasgow; it’s only slightly watchable because of noted Scottish actor Peter Mullan’s subdued performance that tries hard to convince us this isn’t crap. It’s clearly following along the path of quirky crowd-pleasing middlebrow Brit films such as The Full Monty, Calendar Girls and Waking Ned Devine. In his debut, Gaby Dellal directs with the point being to get every sentimental cloying clich√© in there if possible; writer Alex Rose keeps it sitcom cheery, dumbed down and unimportant. The worker vulnerability issue of age discrimination and unwarranted layoffs is only given a passing thought and soon forgotten, as layoffs are reduced to a side issue.

After 36 years as a hard-hat shipbuilder, the barrel-chested and tight-lipped 55-year-old Frank gets laid-off for not kissing up to the bosses upstairs and clears out his workplace space on the day the ship he helped build is launched. The proud man walks out of the Job Center in disgust not filling out the unemployment form after realizing there are no good job prospects for him and after a swim in his community rec center, his three colorful misfit workplace buddies Eddie (Sean McGinley), Norman (Ron Cook), and Danny (Billy Boyd) joke about swimming the English Channel, which he takes seriously and decides to accept the challenge to see if he’s still worth something. The likable but inept friends act as a Greek chorus to encourage their hero as much as possible as they live vicariously through him, while the timid Chinese owner of a fish ‘n’ chips shop, Chan (Benedict Wong), acts as his trainer. Frank keeps it a secret from loving wife Joan (Brenda Blethyn), while her secret is that she’s taking a course to see if she can become a city bus driver.

Frank is haunted by the loss of one son in a drowning accident decades ago and he’s chilly to his other son Rob (Jamie Sives) because his wife Angela (Jodhi May) works in an unemployment office while he stays home to take care of the twin boys–not considered a very macho thing to do.

Things go according to the dictates of the winning formula for such pics, with no surprises (even farting jokes when the forced levity wanes) as there’s triumph-over-adversity everywhere imaginable. The centerpiece 21-mile English Channel swim is carried out by pulling on all the heartstrings and then some. There’s an audience for this sort of mush, but don’t count me in the mix.