I enjoyed watching “Uncle Frank” for a number of reasons, but the three main reasons were the great performances by its three leads. Paul Bettany is charismatic and charming in the title role. He’s a transplanted small-town Southerner who’s teaching literature at NYU in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Frank fled to New York as a young man, and still hopes to prevent his redneck family from discovering that he’s gay.
Sophia Lillis is endearing as Frank’s young and naïve niece, Beth, who loves literature and learning as much as he does. On a rare visit back to small town Georgia, Uncle Frank encourages 14-year-old Beth to pursue her dreams. Beth enrolls at NYU at age 18, and is proud to learn that her beloved uncle is one of the most respected professors on campus.
Coaxed by a friend into crashing a party at Uncle Frank’s house, Beth discovers he’s been leading a secret life. However, unlike the rest of her redneck family and most of their townsfolk, Beth doesn’t care if her favorite relative is gay. She is thrilled to meet his longtime partner Walid “Wally” Nadeem (Peter Macdissi). The effervescent and loving Wally is also closeted from his devout family, all of them safely back in Saudi Arabia.
Uncle Frank Faces Trauma
The death of Frank’s estranged father/Beth’s grandfather (Stephen Root) takes them on a road trip back to their hometown for the funeral. Uncle Frank finally faces a trauma from his teenage years that he’s been running from ever since.
“Uncle Frank” is written and directed by Alan Ball, and stars Paul Bettany, Sophia Lillis, Peter Macdissi, Judy Greer, Steve Zahn, Lois Smith, Stephen Root, and Margo Martindale.
Produced by Your Face Goes Here Entertainment and Parts and Labor, “Uncle Frank” is obviously meant to be a message movie but it’s still fun to watch. The dramatic film runs 95 minutes, and is rated R for some drug use, sexual references, and language. “Uncle Frank” opens on Thanksgiving Day Nov. 26 on Amazon Prime Video.