Sludgy pacing or a too-eager-to-please cast could have tipped this tale of a newly unemployed Glaswegian grandfather who attempts to mend his tattered sense of personal worth by swimming the English Channel into a puddle of soggy sentiment. But screenwriter Alex Rose, first-time director Gaby Dellal and their cast consistently hit the right notes, and the result is an uplifting tale that you don't have to be embarrassed to enjoy. Fifty-five year old Frank (Peter Mullan) has worked at the shipyards since he was a young father, but new management and Frank's own unyielding manner conspire to make sure that when layoffs come, Frank goes. Too restless to sit around playing cards but too old to easily find another job, Frank sulks and swims at the public pool, where inspiration strikes: He'll test himself against the Channel and show everyone there's life in his old bones. Chan (Benedict Wong), who owns the local fish 'n' chips shop Frank patronizes, draws up a training plan, and Frank's three best friends nonconfrontational Eddie (Sean McGinley), good-natured and none-too-bright Danny (Billy Boyd), and prissy Norman (Ron Cook), who can always be counted on to bring dessert pitch in according to their abilities and swear not to tell Frank's long-suffering wife, Joan (Brenda Blethyn), or grown son, Rob (Jamie Sives), a househusband convinced his gruff dad looks down on him for raising his sons while his wife (Jodhi May) works. Predictable complications ensue, ratcheted up by the fact that Joan has embarked on her own secret personal-improvement project: She's studying to become a licensed bus driver. But Dellal never loses sight of the real pain beneath the comic contrivances: Frank is deeply damaged by the loss of his job, stripped of the one thing that made him feel worthwhile after his other son Rob's twin brother drowned as a child. Rob's sense of abandonment is no joke, nor is Eddie's humiliation when he saves his own paycheck by agreeing to a demotion to janitor. Above all, the ensemble performances ground the film in the sense that there really are people like Frank and Joan and Chan in the world. Mullan pulls off the toughest balancing act, making Frank a convincingly hardheaded jerk whose better qualities nonetheless peek through the facade of toughness, but he's matched by the rest of the cast only Boyd verges on caricature, and annoying though Danny is, who doesn't know a strangely endearing idiot just like him?
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Sludgy pacing or a too-eager-to-please cast could have tipped this tale of a newly unemployed Glaswegian grandfather who attempts to mend his tattered sense of personal worth by swimming the English Channel into a puddle of soggy sentiment. B… (more)