Breugel Children Playing Detail

Dear Frankie

Millais, Mariana
Measure for Measure

Millais, Mariana from Measure for Measure

Jean Paul Lemieux
Nineteen Ten Remembered

Jean Paul Lemieux, Nineteen Ten Remembered

But Mousie, thou art no
  thy lane,
In proving foresight may
   be vain,
The best-laid schemes o'
   mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but
   grief an' pain
For promis'd joy!
  Robert Burns
      To A Mouse


Millais, Boyhood of Raleigh

Best-Laid Schemes

Part 1E


It's tempting to suggest that one hour's happiness must be paid for with a full complement of hours of misery.   But that would be to assume that challenges bring only problems, as though we pay for but never learn and move on from our mistakes.

It should seem an artificial plot contrivance that Frankie's successful foray to the public library is followed by one disjointed scene after the other as everything — which is to say five or six separate different sequences — happens at once.   But in this film nothing rings truer than the wave upon wave of complications hitting the Morrison household just as it seems to find a bit of comfort, each wave bearing its full complement of confusing flotsam and bewildering jetsam.

As I say, it should seem artificial — if we hadn't been shown that Lizzie has spent years avoiding the consequences of reality by running away, and reality, eventually, inevitably, inexorably, will find us out.

. . . . .

In fact it begins promisingly as Lizzie reads the want ads on the notice board outside Marie's shop when Marie arrives and notices her there.   Ricky Munroe is seen arriving to visit Frankie at the latter's apartment building, rings the doorbell.   Nell comes to the door, looks thrugh the peephole to see Ricky bouncing a phantom basketball, opens the door.

Is this Frankie Morrison's house?

Frankie is playing with his toys and isn't aware at first that Ricky is in the room, wandering around, inspecting attractive items, picking up and holding Frankie's treasured penknife.   Frankie sees him suddenly, is not pleased.   Ricky stands on Frankie's bed in order to examine the large map fastened to the wall and showing the continents with flags stuck here and there at various ports of call.   Ricky takes up one of the red flags from the map, looks at at.

You're weird. A-C-C-R-A. What's that supposed to mean?

Lizzie's voice is heard before we see her in the doorway:—

It's the name of his dad's boat. And it's the capital of Ghana. Don't tell me. You must be Ricky Munroe. Ricky?
— What?
Get your feet off the bed.

The doorbell rings again — Marie is outside on the landing. We hear Lizzie first:—

Thanks, but no thanks.
— I mean, the advert's not going in the paper till Friday.
I'm grateful for the offer, honest, but we might not be here that long.
— Do you know, that's what I said when I first came? Look, it is only a part-time job. I'm not asking you to sign your life away. OK. Just think about it.

We don't see Nell; we just hear her accepting the job on Lizzie's behalf and asking what time Marie wants Lizzie to start.

So far, seemingly so safe.   Except that amidst the confused activity — if we can call it that — one warning note stands out in the cacaphony:— our old friend, the presumptuous sin of envy, studied rather at length in the Sense and Sensibility section of Austen Novels, and Ricky has reacted predictably by assuring Frankie he is weird ... for owning something Ricky covets. If you can't take from the offender that which he has and you want, next best is to spoil his enjoyment of it —  also known as sour grapes.

We crossed the equator a week ago, Frankie. We'll be docking in the Cape soon. And it's really hot on board now. It's so hot on deck, you burn your hands on the rail. As The Stranger speaks Frankie moves the ACCRA flag to a low spot on the map above his bed. Well, I'd better go now, Frankie. It's my turn on watch. Now, mind and stick in at school and be a good boy for your mammy.
Love from your Daddy.

Next day or so Ricky drops onto Frankie's desk a newspaper clipping from The Shipping News. Frankie opens it slowly.

It bears mention that if Ricky is Frankie's bête noir in this new existence, Catriona has constituted herself a mother hen shepherding her single baby chick (Frankie) away from the shoals and currents of hazardous fortune.   We see the three of them on the shore, and it's obvious this perhaps not ill-assorted trio spends its spare time at this inviting location.

Ricky     Hey, Frankie boy. Bet you're dead excited about seeing your da.
Catriona   Why don't you just lay down and die? Ignore him, Frankie.
Ricky     Bet you didn't even know his boat was coming.
Catriona   Of course he knew, stupid. And you don't need to shout. He can see what you're saying. Unfortunately.
Ricky     I bet you all my trump cards your da doesn't come. If he comes, I'll give you the lot. If he doesn't come, you have to give me every single one of your stamps, and your knife, to keep forever.
Catriona   No, Frankie. Don't. Don't do it.

Dear Da
Sorry I haven't written for a few days. Things have been very busy here. I suppose you've been busy too, now that you've had to change course and sail back north.
Ricky Munroe told me. Trust him to put his big feet right in it. I've told him hundreds and hundreds of times you might not even get shore leave. But he doesn't know about these things. He's not very clever.
He said you wouldn't to come and see us even if you could.
So guess what, Da? I bet Ricky Munroe you were coming. Then I said I'd bring you to the football trials to prove it.

. . . . .

Lizzie has picked up her mother's newspaper at the same time as Frankie's letter. Nell opens the paper, sees a large photo of Lizzie with her name LIZZIE MORRISON on top. Automatically she closes the paper before her daughter can notice.

Lizzie has her own problems, of course:— reluctantly she shows Frankie's letter to Nell.

I knew something like this was gonna happen. I told you, didn't I? What we gonna do?
Lizzie, darling, listen. You can't keep running. You've got to face this sometime. Tell Frankie the truth. He should know, Lizzie. He should know what his daddy was. Then maybe he'd stop wishing for him. Have you forgotten what it was like?

Lizzie insists that her husband is dead, and isn't about to walk in and take what's his, as her mother puts it.

Lizzie, darling, you're my daughter and I love you, but you're wrong. You've stopped living your life. You're the one that's dead. That's not what Frankie needs. He doesn't need lies in a letter. He needs flesh and blood.

Next we see Nell at the public telephone at the corner. A woman's voice is heard saying Hello? Hello? Who is this?

Go away. Nell speaks into the receiver. Just go away and leave us alone. For God's sake, just leave us alone.

. . . . .

Frankie and Catriona are sitting in a small abandoned rowboat on the shore. Catriona is obviously devoting her considerable energy and powers of imagination to deciding how best to help.

You know what I would do, if I was in your situation? I'd look in my mammy's wardrobe ...
See, I bet your dad's written to your mammy and told her he's coming, but not to tell you, because it's a surprise.
Girls love secrets, Frankie. It'll be in the back of her wardrobe. Trust me. I know these things ...
... Wardrobe. The key's here somewhere.

Frankie and Catriona are in Lizzie's bedroom.

Perfect. Look, Frankie. A bride's dress.

I don't think I need describe what happens next. Lizzie appears, of course, and there is a painful scene in which neither of the frightened children says a word. Later, Lizzie searches out Frankie in one of his hiding places, sits beside him in the cold.

I need to tell you something important. Of course he wants to see you. He might not want to see me, but he'll always want to see you. You're his boy. Maybe he just can't, Frankie. It's been a long time. Frankie must be asking which of his parents he resembles:— Like yourself. You look like yourself.

After supper that night Lizzie sets out to hire someone to take the place of her husband and pretend to be Frankie's dad.   That ends predictably and she spends the night wandering about. She is sitting on a bench crying in desolation when Marie and Marie's young man walk past the next morning. Marie's young man places his jacket around her and together they envelope Lizzie in warmth and comfort.

Do you know something funny, Da?
I think Ma knew you'd be coming.
That's why she brought us here. I think she wanted you to find us.

[June 2006 text only]
    [WebPage last amended March 26th, 2012]


Top of this Page
Part 1E — Best-Laid Schemes
Main Page — Index
Main Page – Index
Dear Frankie
Previous Page
Part 1D — A New Life? — Or Continuation of the Old
Next Page
Part 2A — Friday