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Uncle Frank (AFI Fest 2020); Grade: B

Strictly Films welcomes to you to coverage of this years AFI Film Festival! Our next film on the block: Uncle Frank.

Uncle Frank tells a story about a man named Uncle Frank (Paul Bettany), who’s niece Beth (Sophia Lillis) has been rather fascinated by, as she questions why a nice man like Uncle Frank is rather disliked by his father. Beth soon discovers the reason why being, is the fact Uncle Frank has a kept secret that he is a gay man, as well as he has a romantic partner with Wally (Peter Macdissi). The day after of Uncle Frank coming out to Beth, Uncle Frank received a call that his father has passed away as Uncle Frank and his niece will be traveling by car to attend the funeral. Witness a road trip in which we discover hidden demons from Uncle Frank’s past, as well as Beth learns more about his Uncle Frank being severely troubled and broken inside.

Uncle Frank from a visual standpoint felt very traditional, to fairly budgeted studio dramas. It’s a film in which does not wow you by any means from a visual standpoint, but still fairly nice to look at. It’s worth noting at times this film can look the much more brighter shots of IT, as both felt similar towards the camera moving slowly in happier sequences. I would like to mention that whenever this film was centered around the location of the creek, it’s worth mentioning just how filthy the water is. It sometimes looked like the characters were swimming in Coca Cola, which I found really interesting. Followed by a lovely composed score, that compliments the lighthearted dramatic/comedic tone of this film.

The cast of Uncle Frank as a whole was fairly good. The only real complaint I truly have with the cast, is the boys whom played in flashback sequences in Uncle Frank’s head as I felt both actors delivered truly awful performances, especially younger Frank (Cole Doman). Will discuss further about those sequences in the review, but compared to every other actor these performances were extremely weak and very unconvincing as well, as at times felt very amateurish.

Uncle Frank led by Paul Bettany played a pretty good performance, as he held his own towards the kept to himself nature of his character, while also delivered immensely in break out moments. Uncle Frank is a fairly liked protagonist, in which isn’t so picture perfect himself, not talking about his sexuality, more so towards the inner demons that holds himself back from receiving true happiness. He’s definitely a troubled man in which his own father treated him poorly, especially when he found out towards the sons affairs with men. Definitely a character you do feel truly sorry for, as the film goes on it’s worth noting the character development is fairly done, in which the audience does grow attached to him.

Sophia Lillis played a pretty good performance as Uncle Frank’s niece, as Uncle Frank’s presence truly inspired Beth in becoming her own person. I enjoyed the chemistry Sophia and Paul had together, making this not only a convincing Uncle/Niece connection, but also a connection in which as the audience gets emotionally invested. I also liked Wally played by Peter Macdissi, as he’s more of a comedic relief but also does delivered in really heavily packed emotional moments, including the crucial motel scene. I also enjoyed how Wally was written as a character, though a comedic relief but also has more of a personal touch regarding the way his country and family is frown upon his sexuality. Worth noting the fact Wally abandoning his country in order to be true to himself was very inspiring and heart felt as well, t’was an enjoyable character that delivered some fun moments.

As we come to see really great films that deals with this subject matter, especially how their presented, it’s worth noting Uncle Frank will most certainly get under the skin to those whom are fine art cinema snobs. For me Uncle Frank how it’s presented can perhaps be a bit cheesy, the way the story is told and the way film is shot. Especially during the flashback sequences, the vibe this film is going for, and most certainly the finale.

Despite myself not fully appreciating this film for exceeding high values in story telling and how it’s presenting... It’s worth noting that I actually did enjoy Uncle Frank for what it is.

The story at hand still is fairly written, I like how each character is written, plus the story was pretty thoughtful and sweet to those whom felt terrified by the thought of coming out towards loved ones. This story is in a time period in which this sexuality, open to the public was still fairly new to everyone, as with people’s high end religious values sometimes strongly disagree this lifestyle. As things were changing for the better, Uncle Frank still hesitated to come out due to how his father raised his him and his siblings, plus knowing the city they were in it’s still frown upon. So watching Uncle Frank going through the motions of his past demons, forgiving himself, and getting over the hump in trying express his real self to his family was honestly done just fine. Uncle Frank also does well in both the comedic field and dramatic field. There are some fairly done enjoyable laughs in this film, including Uncle Frank’s Aunts reaction towards him being a gay man, as Uncle Frank does accept the fact she’s trying her best despite it being still harsh. It was a nice moment to learn to accept the fact those older lived in fairly different times, as even the fact they were trying their best to express acceptance was good enough. The dramatic moments were done extremely well, I liked the fact this film delivered in it’s heavily impacted emotional moments in which consist a lot of frustration, anger, and sadness.

With Uncle Frank I did not like the flashback sequences at all, in fact I felt they were by far the worst part of this entire film. Not only by an acting standpoint, just by the way everything was shot, as it felt extremely goofy to the point where it doesn’t comprehend to what is going on in Uncle Frank’s mind. The only thing I did liked about the flashbacks, was Uncle Frank’s father’s acting, in which he delivered expressing his emotions being against Frank’s sexuality. I also felt kind of underwhelmed by the finale as well. By no means is it bad, I think I liked the reactions by the family, as it fits a nice ending towards the film. But how it moves felt very corny and uncanny, as I kind of expected a little more out of it, than just Frank walking towards the front porch as we conclude with more narration. I think this film will be liked by the audience at least, it’s definitely one of those films that’s gonna be a nice sit together time for the holidays. But oh heavens no, health experts highly recommend families should not get together this holiday season, so there’s no need to gather around in togetherness and enjoy Uncle Frank. How about all those “Health Experts” do the right thing and mind their own business, 2020 has been a very hard time for families, let them enjoy the holidays with their families and enjoy Uncle Frank together. To those families whom plan to spend the holidays with their families: Have a good time, keep spreading love to one another, and God Bless you all.

Overall, Uncle Frank was a good film. I recommend checking this one out, will be available on Amazon Prime on November 25th. -Mitch Smietana

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