On A Clear Day Review

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Made redundant after years in a shipyard, Glaswegian granddad Frank (Mullan) devises a dubious plan to restore his pride: he'll swim the English Channel. Perhaps then he'll be able to come to terms with the drowning of his son decades ago…


Ever since Robert Carlyle whipped off his kecks for the ladies of Sheffield, British filmmakers have been desperate to deliver the next Full Monty. It worked for a boy with dancing feet and a girl with football dreams. And, if there’s any justic, it’ll work again here in the unlikely shape of a grumpy, middle-aged Scottish man in trunks.

On A Clear Day is a low-key, word-of-mouth crowdpleaser that's so warm-hearted, it's impossible not to forgive it for pushing so many obvious formula buttons. It plays a risky game, switching tone from domestic drama to political point-making to broad comedy to sticky sentiment in a matter of moments, rounding everything off with a perfect ending that will make grown men weep.

   However, as the emotional styles swing around him, Peter Mullan holds the film together with a performance of granite-like strength. His Frank is not a likeable cheeky chap (leave it to Billy Boyd for that part of the equation), but a pig-headed man who bottles up his feelings and needs the repetition of his swimming training to give his newly unemployed life some order. It's Mullan's best work since My Name Is Joe; he grabs hold of the feelgood scenario and anchors it in reality.  

Most mainstream movies paddle in the shallows, but On A Clear Day has a heart big enough to swim the Atlantic. An inspiring, uplifting tale that deserves to be British cinema's latest success story. HHHH