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I was so excited to watch Uncle Frank when I saw the advertisements for it because I knew it was going to be handled with care, as any story this crucial must be handled. The script really is the engine of any film. You can assemble talented actors but without a competent script, you can forget it. I’m so pleased that the writer of this script, Alan Ball, cut to the core of the issues dealt with here because you can’t be timid when confronting something like this. On top of the fantastic script this film offers up, this cast is ever talented and more than capable of handling the material, especially Bettany and Lillis.
Uncle Frank is a film set in the early 70s when LGBT people weren’t exactly embraced, especially in the south where this takes place. The script addresses the devastating reality of discrimination by showing us how it really was for gay and lesbian people decades ago and by showing the horrific inhumane ways certain bigoted individuals reacted to it. Some of these scenes are indeed hard to watch and that means they’re well done because no one should feel comfortable seeing the heartbreaking discrimination that is presented here.
There’s one sequence in particular that struck me because of its intensity and that’s a flashback where Frank’s father finds out about him. The hatred and the seething rage is paralyzing and Frank, who is only a teen at this point, reacts to his father in a way that many young gay teens do when confronted with bigotry…. he internalizes it. This is just one reason why Uncle Frank is so well done and is so important… it depicts very real scenarios that unfortunately happen to far too many people. These are not happy issues to bring into the light but if you never do… they never get fixed.
Another aspect of this film that I thought was presented well was the long-term ramifications Frank deals with because of his father’s disgusting bigotry and complete lack of love for him. Frank deals with alcoholism and serious personal issues due to the absence of love from his father and due to the very sideways society around him. I’m so happy that this film covers a lot of the bases when it comes to showing the horrors of bigotry and what it really does to people.
Now, this film isn’t 100% about Frank, it’s also about Lillis’s character Beth who is drawn to her uncle Frank because of his difference from the family and cannot for the life of her understand the meanness her grandfather shows to Frank. I loved the character of Beth because she is someone that sees the beauty and love in Frank that others in the family do not. The relationship these two have is special and shows what family is SUPPOSED to be like.
Paul Bettany finds the core of Frank and plays him with ease. The level of emotion that is needed for this character is great and Bettany meets that challenge head on. I was so moved by his performance, he’s just so real in every scene.. a top notch performance. I’ve been very excited to see Sophia Lillis’s career blossom ever since I saw her in the first It film, this is one hell of a talented girl! Lillis gives a skilled performance that makes you fall in love with her character almost immediately. She has a purity to her that’s obvious from her kind/gentle nature.
I must also praise Peter Macdissi who plays Frank’s long-time partner; he gives such a lovely upbeat performance and serves a much needed purpose as Frank’s main source of love. Bettany and Macdissi have lovely onscreen chemistry too, very palpable. Margo Martindale deserves some praise too, she is always great and here is no exception, she taps into a lot of very raw emotion in her scenes with Bettany and gives further validation to her talent.
This is a little gem that I truly hope everyone will go watch on Amazon Prime, not only is it simply a well done drama but it’s also so crucially important. This film won’t be put into the category of “family” but I think it’s a film that a lot of families should see TOGETHER. Now let’s all go forth into Thanksgiving embracing ALL types of love!
Rom com is not as shallow as it seems
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