Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) doesn’t stay in any one place for very long. Years ago she walked out on her abusive husband and she still fears his return. Nine-year old Frankie (Jake McElhone) and his grandmother Nell (Mary Riggins) are used to moving to new locations in Glasgow. The boy suffers from a hearing impairment and has a lively fantasy life. His room is filled with meaningful mementoes from his childhood. In school, his favorite subject is geography. Over the years, Lizzie has told him that his father works on a ship that travels all over the world. She has even written letters, telling Frankie they are from his father. Oddly enough, she has learned a lot about Frankie's feelings from the responses he's had to his father's adventures.
A crisis looms when the ship Lizzie said Frankie's father works on comes to Glasgow. Thanks to Marie (Sharon Small), a gregarious women who runs a local fish shop, her brother (Gerard Butler) volunteers to assume the identity of Frankie's father. Lizzie fills him in on the details of the correspondence from her son. He will be paid for his role as the perfect dad and return to his job at sea after one day with Frankie.
Shona Auerbach directs this intimate family drama that demonstrates the lengths one loving mother will go to protect her son from the truth about his dangerous and violent father. The key to the emotional vibrancy of the story is the tender and touching performance by Jake McElhone as a sensitive young boy who knows a lot more than his mother suspects. This actor vividly conveys Frankie's vulnerability at home and in school. Gerard Butler puts in a convincing performance as the handsome stranger who extends his visit with the boy and reaches out romantically to his isolated and anxious mother. A surprising development regarding her husband gives her the chance to move beyond her self-imposed prison of fear.