director: Gregory Hoblit | Runtime: 1h 58mins | Crime, Sci-Fi
Through the power of a cosmic and mysterious HAM Radio, NY Detective John Sullivan (Jim Caviezel) manages to talk to his deceased father (Dennis Quaid) in 1969. With the use of the radio, John tries to prevent his father’s upcoming death, and the consequences that follow.
The relationship between a boy and his father, or lack their of, is a tale as old of time. It’s has similar relatability to say, unrealised dreams, or even the ‘one that got away’ trope that is often repackaged within the Romance genre. But what Frequency has over it’s counterparts, is a high-concept plot that merely masquerades a lot of the melodramatic encounters between the films main characters, Frank and John Sullivan. This is Hollywood high-conception at it’s best, and for the most part elevates itself with big ideas and a great cast.
It’s really the first hour of the film that’s on point for the majority, introducing the plots main attraction of a time jumping radio, and subtly rears it’s head towards the importance of a fathers role in a young mans life. Here we see Frank Sullivan, a firefighting ball of charisma that is the poster child for 1960s machismo, who’s main priorities in life are the bravery he shows in his work and of course being a family man. Juxtaposing this is Frank’s son John, who while appearing in both times prominently featured in 1999 New York as a rundown and emotionally exhausted Police Detective. As the mystical HAM radio is introduced to both of them (as a very literal communication device between a son and a father), what follows is high-concept machismo action, underlined with a thoughtful realisations and emotion, and if you consider both the time and the ideals of it’s masculinity, really resonates as a risky depiction, and not the surefire hit you might assume.
With the two’s time crossing conversations in full fruition, John quickly uses his new tool to stop the tragic death of his father in 1969. With about an hour to go in the movie there’s no doubt what the outcome will be, as Dennis Quaid sores through the window of a burning building to safety, instead of burning amongst the flames. It’s here that film begins to lose some of it’s steam, trying to keep the momentum of it’s Sci-Fi action going, but losing the very thing that makes this unique in the first place, it’s level of emotion. Not the paper thin scares, cries or laughs that most Hollywood productions have, but rather the embedded theme of a crucial relationship between a father and his son, it drifts away quickly as the film introduces a new serial killer plot, that feels completely uncharacteristic.
Frank is quickly embroiled in the saviour of numerous girls who would be murdered infamously in 1969, and things begin to get more and more complicated and well, unappealing. By the end you find yourself exhausted by the subpar plot change and th ending doesn’t feel any better, as Frank appears in 1999 New York, now as an old man, to save the life of his son who’s close to death. This ending not only breaks any illusion of redemption for the film, but even breaks it’s own rules, and to add insult to injury we get to watch a soppy attempt to recapture any emotional levity with a ‘happy family’ game of baseball. What is meant to be an acceptable ending will unfortunately leave dumbfounded, and maybe even a little bit insulted.
This film let down by it’s high-concept approach seeming more appealing than the relationships of it’s characters, but as a melodrama with Sci-Fi attachments to it (what the first portion of the film really was), it still works to some degree. This is far from amazing, but the emotions resonate so much more because of the macho characters they are coming from, which is in it’s own right is a freshness that not many films can say they have.