Premiering at this year’s Sundance Festival, Uncle Frank is the latest offering from American Beauty director, and Six Feet Under creator, Alan Ball.
Ball has written the partly-autobiographical screenplay, as well as directing.
Beth Bledsoe (Sophia Lillis) is a teenager growing up in a typical middle-brow Southern family in the 70s. She adores her Uncle Frank, who is an academic living in New York. What she, and the rest of the family don’t know, is that Frank is gay and has been living with his partner Walid for the past ten years.
Part coming-of-age, part coming-out, part family saga, Uncle Frank doesn’t quite know where it sits. Yet it still manages to charm, move and occasionally amuse.
Paul Bettany puts in a masterful performance as Frank, ably supported by Peter Macdissi as Walid. Lillis does her best with the material she is given, although the character of Beth seems underwritten, making her a mere observer. The under-used Margo Martindale is wonderful as the family matriarch, and Stephen Root gives life to the difficult role of Daddy Mac.
The narrative-laden southern landscape and Darcy C. Scanlin‘s production design are given expert treatment by cinematographer Khalid Mohtaseb.
Ball seems far more at home on the small screen. Uncle Frank, like American Beauty, feels more like the pilot for a series than a feature in itself. Yet still, like all of his work, it gets under the skin and is more than worth the time to watch.
Uncle Frank streams on Prime Video from November 25th.