Peter Mullan and Pippen from "The Lord of the Rings" star in "On a Clear Day," a true story (or at least inspired by a true story) about a depressed husband and father who decides the best thing he can do for himself is swim the English Channel from England to France. Now, personally, when I'm feeling a little bit down, I find the best cure is some potato chips and a good movie, or at least a movie with some good looking women in it. I've never really had the urge to swim over 20 miles from one country to another so I can't really relate, but then again I can't imagine too many people have such an urge... or I'm just ignorant of my minority status.
Mullan delivers an excellent performance of a man who has lost everything. After protecting a coworker who self mutilated himself (no, sickos, his hand!), he is fired from his job. Something else bad happens but I was momentarily looking at my computer, so I didn't quite catch it - but he looked pretty damn upset. Anyway, his marriage is on the rocks, especially when he decides to hide from his family that he is indeed training to swim the English Channel. Why you wouldn't tell your family is beyond me, but apparently it is the thrill of secrecy.
So, Mullan is terrific as he delivers a serious yet dryly comical performance. Thinking back, the way his grin creeps in there now and again, it almost reminds me of George W. Bush, but in a good way. How reminding me of Bush can be a good thing is beyond me, but Mullen pulls it off.
What makes the film most enjoyable is the supporting cast, and there are plenty of actors to share the wealth. His family members, including his wife, played by Brenda Blethyn, are pretty bland and over dramatic, but his friends are perfect. Billy Boyd (Pippen) is entertaining, though really no different than characters he has played in the past. Benedict Wong is a treat. Sean McGinley ("Braveheart") is also quite good in a smaller role.
First time writer Alex Rose has successfully balanced drama and comedy in the screenplay, putting it at par with several other successful British films of a similar nature. There are a few very serious moments in the film, and the film handles them lightly but not inappropriately. The dialogue is consistently natural, making comedy out of just about everything just like in real life. There are few laugh out loud parts, but the movie is still entertaining from beginning to end.
"On a Clear Day" does lay on the family drama a bit much to the point where it is almost cheesy in nature. Mullen's son reacts so strongly to the fact that his father lied to him about swimming the Channel that when the son confronts him, he jumps into the pool to get into his father's face. Why do you care so much? Why did you just jump into the water? The ending is also a bit melodramatic as Mullen rises from the water in France, only to technically erase his record-setting swim by touching his son (reuniting with him) before he touches dry land. First, if you were the son, why the hell would you not make him walk the twenty feet to dry land, and two, even if you are so happy your son showed up to congratulate you, at least say "get the f**k out of my way, son, until I reach France."
"On a Clear Day" is an enjoyable and uplifting drama-comedy that hopefully will be an inspiration for those who need something. That being said, it lays on the melodrama a bit too much in a few places, and I am not a fan of melodrama. Still, despite all that, this film is recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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