director: alan ball (towelhead)
starring: paul bettany, sophia lillis, Peter Macdissi and steve zahn
REVIEWER: lyall carter
Accompanied by his teenage niece, a gay literature professor reluctantly returns home to attend his father's funeral.
This time of year is Oscar season when studios pull great films with thundering performances out of the bag. And Amazon Prime Video has one of the best films of 2020 on their hands with a heartwarming yet at times heartbreaking tale of family, loss and acceptance anchored by a career best and Oscar worthy performance from Paul Bettany.
In 1973, teenager Beth Bledsoe leaves her rural Southern hometown to study at New York University, where her beloved Uncle Frank (Paul Bettany) is a revered literature professor. She soon discovers that Frank is gay, and living with his longtime partner Walid “Wally” Nadeem - an arrangement that he has kept a secret for years from society and his family.
After the sudden death of Frank's father - Beth’s grandfather - Frank is forced to reluctantly return home for the funeral with Beth in tow, and to finally face a long-buried trauma that he has spent his entire adult life running away from.
Uncle Frank, narratively, is a film of two parts. The first is breezy, charming and feel good as Beth moves from her small town to the bright lights of New York with her welcoming, open and accepting uncle as her support.
Even though the thread has been there throughout the film, it’s the second half that really packs the biggest punch as Uncle Frank’s trauma of hiding who he really is from his family and the enormous guilt he carries from a previous relationship comes home to roost.
This is where Uncle Frank is at its most wonderful, tender, dramatic and confronting exploring the depths of family dynamics, tolerance, and love. Uncle Frank will break you, it will melt your heart and hopefully make you a better person in the long run. It's that kind of a movie. One that will entertain you, move you and the very rare breed of films that will, if you let it, transform you.
From his previous work we always knew that Paul Bettany could act. But Uncle Frank is something else entirely. Bettany manages to hold the simmering tension of anger and shame within this performance as well as being able to emotionally unravel before our very eyes. Its tender, it's breaking and it’s absolutely Oscar worthy. Peter Macdissi is superb as Uncle Frank’s partner bringing not only the laughs but the solid loving centre to this film.
Amazon Prime Video has one of the best films of 2020 on their hands with a heartwarming yet at times heartbreaking tale of family, loss and acceptance anchored by a career best and Oscar worthy performance from Paul Bettany.