Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Frankie Movie Poster Image
Uneven indie drama tackles mortality with fabulous cast.
  • PG-13
  • 2019
  • 98 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Encourages honesty between family members, spending time with those you love, acknowledging and respecting the wishes of the dying.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Frankie is a loving wife, mother, stepmother, friend. She wants to make sure everyone will be all right and taken care of after she dies. Jimmy adores his wife, and Michel loves his ex-wife. Paul and Sylvia care about their families but are each struggling to deal with what Frankie's death will mean to them. Ilene is a loyal friend.


Frankie faints. Paul violently throws his mother's favorite bracelet into the forest. Deals with death/dying.


A married couple kisses and makes love in bed (bare shoulders and upper back visible). Another couple kisses and embraces. A young couple holds hands and kisses on the beach. A character recalls losing his virginity at age 15 to an 18-year-old girl. Frankie takes off her bikini top to swim in the pool; her naked chest is shot from far away.


"Jesus Christ," "Christ," "bulls--t," "arse," "s--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults at a birthday meal drink what could be alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Frankie is a Portugal-set drama starring Isabelle Huppert, Brendan Gleeson, and Marisa Tomei. It follows Françoise Crémont, otherwise known as Frankie (Huppert), an internationally renowned actress who's on an emotional family vacation to which she also invites her dear friend/former hair stylist (Tomei). Expect some heavy themes about romantic relationships, death/dying, and family. There's a bit of language ("bulls--t," "s--t," "Jesus Christ"), a few scenes of couples kissing/caressing, talk of virginity loss, and one love scene on a bed. Bare shoulders/upper back and a naked chest (from far away) are seen. Although one character is a teen, the movie seems unlikely to appeal to younger audiences; it firmly targets mature adults and seniors.

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What's the story?

Director Ira Sachs' drama FRANKIE chronicles one day in the life of Françoise Crémont, aka Frankie (Isabelle Huppert), an acclaimed French actress who's gathered her blended family to Sintra, Portugal, for a final European vacation together. The family includes Frankie's son, Paul (Jérémie Renier); her second husband, Jimmy (Brendan Gleeson); his daughter, Sylvia (Vinette Robinson); and Sylvia's husband, Ian (Ariyon Bakare), and teen daughter, Maya (Sennia Nanua); as well as Paul's father/Frankie's "gay ex-husband" Michel (Pascal Greggory). It turns out that Frankie is dying (cancer), so she wants her loved ones to spend quality time together one more time. But she's also invited her dear friend, movie-set hairstylist Ilene (Marisa Tomei), to join them as a last-ditch effort to set Paul up with someone she thinks will be good for him. Ilene, unaware of Frankie's intentions, throws a wrench in the plans when she arrives with her boyfriend, aspiring director Gary (Greg Kinnear).

Is it any good?

A fantastic international ensemble makes for a decent family drama in a gorgeous setting, but overall the movie is less impressive than its excellent cast. Beloved French actress Huppert is always worth watching; her acting is authentic, subtle, and expressive. Naturally it's believable that she could play a world-famous actor who's struggling with her mortality. As her devoted husband Jimmy, Gleeson is a study in anticipatory grief. He's a man who's not ready to fully accept that his wife isn't long for this world. Tomei's role, on the other hand, is the least compelling.

Frankie's central premise is promising: A dying legendary actress wants to bring together her eccentric blended family. But as the story (and the day) continues, the uneven screenplay meanders into several subplots that vary greatly in interest and importance. Ilene and Gary's relationship is a bore, Sylvia's marital angst is seemingly unjustified, Maya's coming-of-age vacation romance feels like it's in another film altogether, and Michel's presence with his Portuguese guide is unnecessary. On the other hand, Paul and Sylvia's step-sibling rivalry and odd chemistry could have been more deeply explored, as could Sylvia and Ian's inexplicably rocky marriage. Sachs' multigenerational films are always interesting, but this is one audiences will appreciate (for its cast and beautiful landscapes) rather than fully enjoy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Frankie's multigenerational themes. How do each of the generations respond to the vacation? What, if any, experiences do they have in common?

  • Who in the movie do you consider a role model? What character strengths do they display?

  • Several of the relationships depicted here are in crisis. Which ones do you think handle their challenges in the healthiest way?

  • What does the movie say about how fans treat/idolize public figures, celebrities, and artists? Why do you think Frankie stays at the birthday party for a complete stranger?

Movie details

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