Uncle Frank is a film written and directed by Alan Ball and debuted on Amazon Prime this weekend. It boasts a top line performance from Paul Bettany.
Frank (Paul Bettany) is part of a larger family filled with dysfunction in 1973 South Carolina. So much so that Frank had to get out, making his way to Manhattan. Living there for years, Frank’s niece Beth (Sophia Lillis) came as well. When she arrived, she discovered Frank’s deep, hidden secret. He was gay.
He had also been living with another man, Wally (Peter Macdissi), for years. He was desperately trying to keep the truth from his family, afraid of what they might think. However, when Frank’s verbally abusive father (Stephen Root) dies, he and Beth struggled to return for the funeral.
The movie has some solid performances and some really good character work, but everything is dominated by Paul Bettany. Frank has so much baggage from his life and unresolved pain from his self-discovery of his orientation and Bettany dominates every scene. You can see how he has never truly dealt with the tragedy in his past, all connected to his father, so when his father dies, it brings up a massive personal reaction.
The relationship between Frank and Wally is sweet and real. The fears that they faced as a gay couple in the early seventies were real and potentially dangerous and their attempts to shield who they were is a sad fact of life. We see this played out in some powerful scenes between them. Frank’s issues have led to him having a drinking problem which only compounds his deep-seeded pain.
Sophia Lillis does a great job too. At first, the film feels as if she would have been our main protagonist, but it does seem as if she takes a supporting role to that of Paul Bettany for most of the movie.
Uncle Frank is a good movie, though it may not be as strong as the performance given by several of the actors, in particular Paul Bettany. It is a worthwhile watch though.