On a Clear Day – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Director:

Gaby Dellal

Cast:

Peter Mullan……….Frank Redmond
Brenda Blethyn……….Joan Redmond
Billy Boyd……….Danny
Ron Cook……….Norman
Sean McGinley……….Eddie
Jamie Sives……….Rob
Benedict Wong……….Chan
Jodhi May……….Angela

Focus Features presents On a Clear Day. Written by Alex Rose. Running time: 99 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for some language). DVD release date: July 11, 2006.


The Movie

Sentimental movies are becoming a common occurrence in cinema. Such uplifting themes can be found in sports films or films about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. This year, so far, we have had stories about a teenager dying of brain cancer trying to woo a supermodel (One Last Thing…); a man whose goal is to race his motorcycle as fast as he can (The World’s Fastest Indian); and a dog lover on a rescue mission (Eight Below). The subject matter is completely different in each one, but all three are enriching movies, nonetheless.

I mention these to give you a frame of reference. On a Clear Day is another one of those feel good movies with print-ad blurbs like, “heartwarming” and “cinematic gem”. The problem is that it isn’t nearly as captivating as one might think.

It begins as Frank Redmond (Peter Mullan) is boxing up pictures and other knickknacks in an office in Glasgow. There is a ruckus outside. Throngs of people have gathered to see a ship, a huge behemoth of a vessel, be released into the water. We can easily construe that Redmond has been laid off from his job, half his life dedicated to building ships. While his family stares in amazement at the awesome sight, the ship builder is content to stay away from the proceedings.

Already he has dropped in stature. Frank is a man with time on his hands, no longer the breadwinner in the family. He is a man with inner demons (like blaming himself for the drowning of a small son) and quickly sinks into depression. The melancholy is so great that he has to be hospitalized after a panic attack. Such an attack serves not as a wake-up call, but rather a convenient way to get from point A to point B.

Redmond may feel guilt, but not to the degree where it takes over his life. Only when he is unemployed does he have the time to reminisce. Through black-and-white flashbacks we see his two sons playing on a beach. Frank is there and so is his wife (Brenda Blethyn). They all look so happy. Now, his other son (Jamie Sives) is all grown up. Rob doesn’t speak with his father that much. When he does it’s just a few sentences at the most. There is a separation – probably since that fateful day at the beach decades ago. For a feature that looks to be a family drama, Redmond avoids his family for most of the picture, as his depression and panic lead to a higher calling: swimming.

So while he swims laps in a community pool, his wife, Joan, decides she wants to be a bus driver. Somebody’s got to bring in a decent wage. They spend most of the movie trying to keep their extracurricular activities a secret, hiding them from their significant others. Neither activity is anything to be ashamed of; it’s swimming and driving, of all things.

Joining Frank at the pool are his friends, who include a former hobbit, co-workers from the shipyard, and Chan, the manager of a local Asian delicatessen. This chorus is there to lend support as Redmond gets the crazy notion to swim the English Channel.

While there is a fun mixture of comedy and drama in the movie, On a Clear Day suffers because the filmmakers aren’t forceful with their storytelling. What would have really made for a more compelling feature would have been for them to focus on Frank’s ulterior motive for wanting to swim the 20-mile wide channel. There is an idea, but it isn’t fleshed out enough to warrant attention.

Apparently, the filmmakers want us to believe that the feat of swimming the Channel will snap Frank out of his burdening depression. Like it’s a step, uh, stroke in the right direction. Or, maybe they wanted the movie to be open ended. Let us fill in the blanks of what Frank might do next.


The DVD

THE VIDEO
(Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen)

The video transfer is remarkably good. This import from across the Atlantic has little grain in the print and few other distractions. As for the colors, the costume designer went for more of an earth tone look. Brown jackets, black pants and dark green sweaters are some of the clothing accessories to be found. Makes sense, as most blue-collared shipyard employees wouldn’t wear something extravagant.

THE AUDIO
(English Dolby Digital 5.1)

The track is sufficient enough for an uplifting film like On a Clear Day. The side channels aren’t used to great affect as much the action takes place in the water. And I don’t mean with battleships and submarines. The disc also comes with Spanish and French subtitles and English captions. So, if you have trouble deciphering the Scottish drawl by some of the characters, this could come in handy.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Pretty much unnoticed in its limited release, the On a Clear Day DVD has zero extras in which to write about. The only thing on the disc that could be construed as a special feature is a trio of forced trailers before the main menu appears. The trailers are advertisements for Munich on DVD, The Producers on DVD, and Inside Man, which is coming soon to home release.

THE INSIDE PULSE

Peter Mullan may be an unknown lead to some, but he’s been working to this day ever since appearing in Braveheart with Mel Gibson and Shallow Grave with Ewan McGregor. He’s Frank Redmond a ship builder, now unemployed, who starts swimming as a hobby. On a Clear Day is a movie about his attempt to swim the English Channel. Yet, the filmmakers don’t delve into the ulterior motive behind attempting such a feat. The signs are there but go unnoticed. It’s a fun, albeit average movie, with good performances by Mullan, Brenda Blethyn and the supporting cast. A rental at best.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for On a Clear Day
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

5.5
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

1
REPLAY VALUE

5
OVERALL
5.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)