Uncle Frank

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Uncle Frank Movie Poster Image
Alcoholism, sex, language in moving dramedy.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 95 minutes

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Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Movie explores the importance of being who you want to be and being who you are, rather than being what others want and expect you to be. 

Positive Role Models

As gay men in the early 1970s, Frank and Walid show the tremendous challenges faced in a time when homosexuality was not only unaccepted by much of society, but also believed to be a sin leading to eternal damnation. Through flashback scenes, we see the terrible hatred Frank experiences from his Christian father as Frank begins to act on his sexual orientation as a teenager in the 1930s Deep South. Movie shows the tremendous emotional difficulty for gay men to come out to their families at a time when gay pride was in its earliest stages and years before LGBTQ people were treated with greater respect and dignity.


In a flashback scene, a teen boy is found dead in a lake after committing suicide. In another flashback scene, a father, after finding his teen son in bed with another teen boy, tells his son that if he ever sees him like that again, he will kill him and his lover. Punch thrown in the middle of a heated argument. When discussing why she never joined a club while in high school, a woman says that her dad told her that she would "get raped, and I'd probably deserve it" due to the skimpy uniforms. 


A college freshman boy makes aggressive sexual advances toward a middle-aged professor (Frank) at a party; Frank rebuffs the advances. No nudity, but some sex scenes. College boy and girl shown in bed trying to have sex. Two teen boys shown kissing -- first in a lake, and then in bed together. Lesbians shown in bed together at a party. Talk of oral sex. Teen girls are shown sitting around another teen girl while she reads excerpts from The Godfather that discuss Sonny's sexual prowess and penis size. 


"F--k" used several times. Homosexual slur used. Ethnic slur used. "A--hole," "bulls--t," "s--tfaced," "bitch," "goddamn." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lead character is a recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon. His boyfriend and niece both try to get him to stop drinking, as it makes him surly, belligerent, and potentially suicidal. He's constantly shown sneaking sips from mini bottles he keeps hidden in his pockets. College freshman girl shown binge-drinking martinis at a party, resulting in her throwing up in the bathroom toilet, then hungover the next day. Marijuana smoking at a party. Cigarette smoking. Beer drinking. Wine drinking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Uncle Frank is a dramedy in which a gay man named Frank (Paul Bettany) and his 18-year-old niece drive from New York City to their South Carolina hometown to attend his father's funeral. The movie is set in 1973, and Frank hasn't come out to his conservative family. The movie centers on his reckoning with a traumatic past that involved the suicide of his first boyfriend. Frank is a recovering alcoholic, and he falls off the wagon upon returning home, resulting in binge drinking, surly and belligerent behavior, and a violent altercation with his boyfriend. Some sex scenes (no nudity), including two women in bed at a party and a boy and girl in college trying to have sex. At a party, a college freshman aggressively flirts with Frank, making sexual advances that he avoids. References to oral sex, penis size. Some profanity, including "f--k" used several times, as well as ethnic and homophobic slurs. Marijuana and cigarette smoking. In addition to Frank's drinking, there's wine and beer drinking, and Frank's niece, after drinking too much, ends up vomiting into the toilet and is shown hungover the next day. Overall, this movie shows the intense struggles of gay men forced to live a lie due to social stigma and conservative family members. In a broader context, the movie explores the importance of being true to yourself and not being what others expect you to be. 

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written bySquiddles December 13, 2020

i loved it

I personally loved this movie, as a gay person it hit pretty hard, and made me cry a lot and that’s how you know it’s good. Also I love the actors, Sophia Lilli... Continue reading

What's the story?

In UNCLE FRANK, it's 1973, and Beth (Sophia Lillis) is a college freshman starting at NYU, where her beloved Uncle Frank (Paul Bettany) works as a professor. Upon learning of a party that Frank is throwing, she arrives and soon discovers that Frank is a gay man in a serious relationship with a man named Walid (Peter Macdissi). Fearing the scorn of their conservative family in their South Carolina hometown, Frank has kept his sexual orientation a secret. But when Frank's father dies, Emily and Frank must return to their hometown, and Frank forbids Walid from going with them. As Frank and Beth road-trip their way down to South Carolina, it's soon discovered that the garrulous Walid has followed them, and has every intention of being with Frank during this difficult time. As they arrive home, Frank is haunted by traumas of his past and the pain of his father's hatred for who he is. A recovering alcoholic, Frank starts drinking again to numb the pain of the past and present, much to Walid's fear and dismay. As Beth confronts Frank's fear of coming out, Frank is soon forced to reveal who he is, and must decide if he can be proud of who he is, or run away in shame from his family. 

Is it any good?

Uncle Frank works as a "coming out" movie, a coming-of-age movie, and a road trip movie. Ultimately, it's a deeply moving story about being true to oneself, despite those who want and expect something different. The movie was written and directed by Alan Ball, best known for American Beauty, True Blood, and Six Feet Under, and he once again movingly explores such themes as coming out, growing up, identity, life and death, and the complexity in family relationships. 

As Frank, Paul Bettany powerfully captures a man who's tearing himself apart as he must confront the costs of living a lie and the pain of the past. As Beth, a misfit in her own right among their family for applying her intelligence and taking Uncle Frank's admonition to "be what you want to be" to heart, Sophia Lillis captures the nuances of an 18-year-old learning to make her way in the world while starting to discover just how difficult it can be to live up to ideals when faced with reality. As Frank's lover and foil Walid, Peter Macdissi plays a man who often brings comic relief, but also struggles with the pain of a closeted existence to his family in Saudi Arabia. Between its Deep South setting and subject matter, there are so many ways in which this movie could be an endless succession of shopworn tropes and hackneyed characters, but it's a testament to the talents of everyone involved that Uncle Frank avoids these traps. The ultimate takeaway is about more than growing up or coming out, but about the very human need for unconditional love from those with whom we are closest. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about "coming out" stories. How does the movie explore the theme of "coming out" during a time when LGBTQ pride and acceptance was in its earliest stages?

  • How is this movie also a "coming-of-age" story? How do the stories of Beth and Frank intersect, particularly in the themes? 

  • How does this compare to other LGBTQ movies you've seen?

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