Upon moving to New York, Beth meets Bruce (Colton Ryan), with whom she quickly forms a relationship. Bruce is going to be taking Uncle Frank’s course on 19th-century women in literature and wants Beth to introduce him. When she takes Bruce to the office, they overhear him saying he’s having a party that evening, and they decide to go, uninvited. Through a series of awkward events, Betty discovers that her boyfriend Bruce, and her Uncle Frank are both gay. She also learns that Uncle Frank’s roommate Walid (Peter Macdisi) is not his roommate, but his boyfriend of ten years. Suddenly the way Daddy Mack treated Uncle Frank began to make sense. That same day, Frank receives a phone call that Daddy Mack has passed away. Beth and Frank drive down to South Carolina together. Walid is upset that he can’t go to support Frank.
At this point, we begin to learn about Frank’s past and exactly how his father found out he was gay, and the rest of the family did not. Frank starts to unravel and relapse out of his sobriety from alcohol. Walid follows Beth and Frank down to South Carolina, which Frank is not happy about. There are several soul-crushing revelations made, and there was more than one time during the film that I was in tears.
Uncle Frank hits close to my heart in many ways. First of all, I moved to New York from Georgia when I was 24 to go to a place where I felt like I belonged more. Secondly, my late cousin with whom I was very close was gay, and some members of my traditional southern Christian family didn’t take too kindly to that. It’s a tale that so many people have lived in reality, which makes me glad that Alan Ball decided to tell this story. Countless people have felt shame simply for being who they are, and no one needs to feel that way.
“The whole cast…give incredible performances”
The cinematography and production design on Uncle Frank courtesy of Khalid Mohtaseb and Darcy C. Scanlin, respectively, encapsulate the 1970s and the beauty of the city and the country during this era. The script is a marvel of screenwriting, considering it was Alan Ball who wrote it, but I will go ahead and say it anyway. The whole cast, Paul Bettany, Peter Macdissi, and Stephen Root, in particular, give incredible performances. Macdissi especially stands out as the one source of joy in a sometimes intensely sad film. I also can’t forget Lois Smith, who played Gran on True Blood in her hilarious turn as Aunt Butch, Daddy Mack’s sister.
Uncle Frank teaches us that being true to yourself is the most important thing and that if someone loves you, they will accept that. On the other side of the coin, some people who should love you for who you are will not because they don’t have the capacity to do so. There are some intense, heartbreaking moments in this film, but I am glad to say that the ending is not as sad as it could have been.
Uncle Frank screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.