Coming to Amazon Prime from writer/director Alan Ball is a tender and heart-wrenching story of a girl and UNCLE FRANK.
Beth (Sophia Lillis) is a young girl living in the south and that means everything that goes with it. Knowing that she does not quite fit into the Bledsoe family, she is thrilled when her college professor Uncle Frank (Paul Bettany) comes to visit from New York. Spending tie with him, Beth gets a chance to talk about what her family expects of her and what she wants for her life.
During that visit, Uncle Frank makes Beth promise that she will do and be anything she wants to be, no matter what the family says. Taking his advice, she applies for college in New York with the chance to spend more time with Uncle Frank. After Mom Kitty (Judy Greer) and Dad Mike (Steve Zahn) have dinner with Frank in New York to drop off Beth. They feel better knowing that she has family close by.
Jumping into the scene of her new home, Beth’s first moment is crashing a part at her Uncle Frank’s apartment. Opening the door is Wally (Peter Macdissi) who is so happy to see Beth and explains that he is Frank’s roommate. Almost immediately Beth ties one on that leads to a revelation about her Uncle that she had not even considered.
The next morning, Frank answers the phone to the news that his father Mac (Stephen Root) has passed. He must take the news in considering that there has been a distance between he and Mac through the years. Packing the car, Beth and Frank head back to southern waters. On the way he notices a car following them.
Well Wally is not about to be left out of the picture and joins the group home knowing that Frank has no intention of introducing him to the family. Accepting it, Wally is just happy to be going. On the way Beth notices that Uncle Frank is being sneaky about drinking and realizes that he has a problem. The closer they get to home the more he seems to be trying to numb himself.
Once home, Frank tries to comfort his mother Mammaw (Margo Martindale) along with other family members. As it sometimes is with families, there are secrets, lies, anger, turmoil and the need to come to terms with who they are in each other’s lives.
That is family.
Bettany as Frank Bledsoe is perfection! He takes us through the pain that keeps him away from his family and knowing that distance does not cure anything because it is only geography. The pain for Frank is so deep and he has carried it for so long that its starting to crack him once again. Bettany gives us every moment of that pain knowing that at some point his character is going to fall and never get back up again or rise with the help of those he loves to stand and face the past – we get both. What an amazing performance from a brilliant actor.
Lillis as Beth is equally stunning in her role. This is a young girl who knows that she does not fit into the southern thought or want to follow in the footsteps of the southern woman. Instead, she finds light in her path that Uncle Frank has put before her. Not realizing the pain that paved that road, she is thrilled to be set free. Once she learns the cost, there is nothing she would not do for Frank and Lillis gives us all the emotion that goes with it. Well done, so well done.
Macdissi as Wally is a dear to me because he reminds me of my brother. The garish, outlandish, outspoken and beloved man who also is a straight shooter. Keeping an eye on Frank isn’t an easy task which has caused Wally pain, yet he isn’t easily swayed from his goal – to keep love right where it belongs, with him. He is funny and absolutely adorable, thanks for reminding me of what I have been missing Macdissi – my brother would have loved you.
Zahn as Mike has issues that are ingrained in his southern upbringing. Closer to his Dad than Frank, he has been battling his own demons that have left a mark on his own family. Zahn is always present in his characters portrayal and I love that about his performances. Greer as Kitty wants what is best for her daughter and is a little more open minded than Mike. Martindale as Mammaw is everything and in this performance, although small, is so very important.
Root as Mac is, to me, the typical southern father who is set in his ways and if you try to go against that you will pay the price. He is a hard man filled with such hostility that it is absolutely gut wrenching to see the scene between the younger Frank and Mac. Root gives every drip of distain in this performance and yet, again, consider the upbringing and the source of it.
Other cast include Lois Smith as Aunt Butch, Cole Doman as young Frank, Jane McNeil as Neva, Caity Brewer as Marsha and Michael Perez as Sam Lassiter.
Amazon Prime offers television shows and original content included in its Amazon Prime subscription. Original programs such as CARNIVAL ROW, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, and THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL are hit shows. Coming soon is the next series with GOLIATH starring Billy Bob Thornton and it promises to another successful and intense series.
UNCLE FRANK is such a stunning film that unwraps family issues that are swimming in truths. Not to punish the south for being the south because I love the south for being quirky and just a tad different in thought. This film is the south that I did not understand as a kid but, as with many of the characters in the film, went along with because it was considered tradition.
The women were modest and discreet, the men were strong and ‘manly’ – both of these things couldn’t have been further from the truth. Behind the coiffed hair and the creased trousers were secrets that most would protect until death – and not always their own. That is what makes this film so important. Yes, it also deals with the pain of being unable to be who you know you are but it is so much more than that.
Bettany shows us the power of that pain and the life it creates hidden so perfectly that not only do people not notice, but if they do, they don’t – at least not openly. UNCLE FRANK is a story of everyone hiding, not just Frank, everyone lying, not just Frank and everyone being untrue to who they are – just like Frank.
Writer/director Alan Ball knows this all too well, “When I was thirteen years old, my beloved older sister was killed in a car accident; I was inside the car she was driving when it happened. In one horrible instant, my life was irrevocably separated into Before and After. I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to run away from that event – all of it wasted, as I can now see. There are some things that happen to us in life from where there is truly no escape”.
In the end – no home comes without baggage!