Parents' Guide to

Uncle Frank

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Alcoholism, sex, language in moving dramedy.

Movie R 2020 95 minutes
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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.

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