Holiday Film Review -- 'Uncle Frank'
"Uncle Frank" premiered at Sundance 2020. This top notch cast tells a unique and emotional story you won't want to miss. Here's Barb Bretz with your Holiday Film Review.
Alan Ball, writer/director of "Uncle Frank," has received well-deserved acclaim for the Academy award winning American Beauty screenplay and TV series Six Feet Under and True Blood. Sundance audiences received this newest project with laughter, tears and standing ovation applause.
Set in the early 1970's, 14 year old Beth Bledsoe, thinks outside the narrow perimeters set by her conservative South Carolina family. When her Uncle Frank, a distinguished literary professor living in New York City, returns home for his father's birthday, he encourages her curiosity and interest in the broader world. “Are you gonna be the person you decide to be or you gonna be the person everyone else tells you, you are? You get to choose.”
Beth observes how mean her grandfather, Daddy Mac, treats Frank but doesn't have a clue why. Four years later she attends school in New York and on a surprise visit, meets Frank's longtime (but secret to the family) partner Wally. Beth's relationship with her uncle deepens through enlightening conversations, often lighthearted but eventually life-altering for them both.
Paul Bettany is amazing as Uncle Frank. No wonder Beth adores him. Sophia Lillis is Beth, whose unconditional love for the man visibly rejected, to greater and lesser degrees by the rest of the family, is genuine. When called home to attend the funeral of Daddy Mac, Frank is forced to confront ghosts of his painful past. Beth reminds him of the conversation they'd had about being the person you decide to be. “That conversation changed my life,” Beth reminds him, signaling it's time for healing to begin.
Peter Macdiss is endearing as Wally. Steve Zahn is Beth's father who, while living under the intimidating shadow of Daddy Mac allowed his brotherly bond to be poisoned. Lois Smith is Aunt Butch whose attitude is a cross between ignorance and innocence. Margo Martindale is Frank's long-suffering mom. Stephen Root is Daddy Mac who carries the hurtful torch of religious zealotry and prejudice to his grave.
It's set in the 70's but the subject of love and acceptance is a timely one today. This film is wonderful and I hope you see it. I also hope anyone who has an Uncle Frank appreciates, respects, and loves him as much as Beth Bledsoe does hers.
"Uncle Frank" is rated R and runs one hour and 35 engaging minutes. It will be released November 25th on Amazon Prime. This is Barb Bretz. See you at the movies.