Uncle Frank Review

Alan Ball is primarily known for writing tv shows such as Six Feet UnderTrue Blood, and Here and Now, as well as the Academy Award-winning Best Picture from 1999, American Beauty. He has done some directing as well, mostly tv shows, but in 2007, his biggest film to date, Towel Head, came out. Uncle Frank is the first film he’s directed in a while. 

The titular character is portrayed by Paul Bettany. He’s like a big brother/friend to his niece, Beth (Sophia Lillis). His wisdom helps guide her through college and life. She is a little naive and shy about the ways of the world. They both belong to a devout southern Christian family. That said, Frank has a secret that can irrevocably shatter the family dynamic as they know it. The two of them have to navigate this to keep the family together.

This film is a period piece set in New York and South Carolina in 1973. The dichotomy of these two locations is part of what makes this film so enjoyable. The title character can be himself in his home in New York. He has the freedom to be who he really is and wants to be. His family home in Creekville is quite a different place entirely. His family has strict Christian beliefs. He is not able to be as open and honest back home in South Carolina.

Alan Ball balances these two locations perfectly. Using a road trip to bridge the gap between them helps the transition flow seamlessly. As writer-director, he is in full control of the atmosphere he is trying to create. The time period clothes, hair, and cars are all authentic and fit in this story as well. Ball shows he’s no novice at this directing game. This film might elevate him into someone people are looking forward to seeing what he does next. This film is that good!

Paul Bettany is a good actor with a diverse range. He has done some comedies but has also done some dramas in his day. That said, most people know him from playing Vision from the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Even though he has given some nuanced performances before as side characters, Uncle Frank might offer the best performance of his career. He has to balance being a mentor to his niece while also being an adult. He balances softer moments with dramatic moments which gives the character gravitas.

Uncle Frank dances around some difficult subject matter. The period in which this film takes place adds to the drama of the story. Amazon Prime has put out some good films and shows this year, but this one is one of the best. Even though there haven’t been a lot of films in theaters this year, streaming services have filled the gap perfectly. Bethany is a strong contender for awards consideration as well. This is a very good film that needs as many eyes on it as possible.

4 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean BoelmanFounder/Lead Criticdisappointment media

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