Updated: Nov 28, 2020
Uncle Frank centers around a man with an inner conflict of being who he wants to be vs being who everyone tells him he is. Ironically, the film itself seems to share a similar inner conflict. It’s split into two halves. The first half is a coming of age film about Beth Bledsoe, an atypical teenage girl growing up in South Carolina. The second half is a family melodrama with a hidden secret that emerges to change the family forever. Between both of them, you have a road-trip movie that adds refreshing brevity. It’s unclear what type of film Uncle Frank is supposed to be but it is clear that the melodramatic second half is the less interesting part. It is the strong first half that keeps you emotionally invested in the second.
Uncle Frank is about a closeted gay NYU professor who has to return to his ultra-traditional southern roots to attend his father’s funeral. This isn’t an original story. It’s actually very cliche but what makes it interesting is that it’s shown from Beth’s eyes. Beth is the outsider of her family which makes her and her Uncle Frank kindred spirits. As she tells us through narration, her Uncle is the only one with whom she feels a strong connection. We see that at the start of the film. It starts with a birthday get-together for Daddy Mac or Beth’s grandfather.
Daddy Mac is the patriarch of the family and Beth notes that he does not hold back from showing his disdain towards his eldest son Frank whether privately or in mixed company, but she doesn’t know why. No one gives Beth any attention except for Uncle Frank. Beth and Frank are kindred spirits. They both don’t belong in South Carolina. Frank tells Beth, “You’re gonna be the person you decide to be, or you’re gonna be the person everyone tells you you are. You get to choose”. Beth takes this advice to heart and 5 years later, leaves her small town to go to NYU where Frank works.
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