On a Clear Day

There's nothing wrong with a formula film. Now, sometimes the formula isn't very good to begin with, as is the case with The Benchwarmers, the formula is idiotic. The people who made that film should looks towards Great Britain, where filmmakers there have been churning out variations on the older, working class blokes looking for something new. Films like The Full Monty, Waking Ned Devine, and Calendar Girls are all good examples of this genre. And they work because the formula demands that the viewer can relate to the characters. Typically, the protagonist is surrounded by some quirky co-stars. Each person has something they are missing/trying to improve, and by the end of the movie, after everybody will be a better person and pass around a bunch of warm fuzzies.

On a Clear Day works because it has characters that people can empathize with, and because its two stars are Peter Mullen (Criminal, Young Adam) and Brenda Blethyn (Pride & Prejudice, Pooh's Heffalump Movie). While there is nothing stellar about the Alex Rose's screenplay, Mullen and Blethyn bring a level of humanity to the roles that helps the story rise about its predictability. Mullen's Frank Redmond loses his job making ships after new management arrives. He has no marketable skills, and finds the entire affair emasculating. Once he was in charge of a lot of people; now he has nothing to do all day. He lacks purpose in life, and it is draining. Redmond decides that he needs to do something important, something that will matter. He decides to swim the English Channel.

Redmond enlists the help of his friends Chan (Benedict Wong, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, Code 46), Eddie (Sean McGinley, Conspiracy of Silence, Gangs of New York), Danny (Billy Boyd, Seed of Chucky, The Return of the King), and Norman (Ron Cook, The Merchant of Venice, Thunderbirds). Chan faces prejudice at his restaurant, Eddie lacks courage in his job, Danny is shy around women, and Norman is afraid of swimming. For his part, Redmond and his son Rob (Jamie Sives, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, Mean Machine) are not close after a childhood trauma. Guess what's going to happen to everybody by the end of the movie?

The fact that On a Clear Day is predictable is not a problem. It works because director Gaby Dellal lets the viewer step into the lives of these men, and shows how Mullen's character slowly changes for the better as he works on this seemingly impossible goal. Redmond is not even that likable. He hides his ambition from his Joan (Blethyn), who herself is working on something in secret from Redmond. These people aren't movie characters; they're normal people that others can see walking down the street. Dellal plays down some of the quirkier aspects sometimes present in this genre, allowing for an earthier, more realistic look at things.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated R for some language.

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