Uncle Frank Parent Guide
This is one of those films where the balance between authenticity and accessibility comes into conflict for family audiences.
Parent Movie Review
Growing up in the 1970s in the Bible Belt town of Creekville, South Carolina, Beth Bledsoe’s (Sophia Lillis) world was not terribly diverse. The highlights of her year were sporadic visits from her Uncle Frank (Paul Bettany), a literature professor at NYU. Frank would leave her with new books and new ideas, and encouragement to see more of the world. After graduation, Beth decided to go to NYU, only to learn that her Uncle Frank is hiding something from the family: he’s gay and living with his boyfriend, Walid (Peter Macdissi). Although this doesn’t faze Beth, the rest of the family may not be so understanding – and they’re going to have to deal with it sooner than they anticipated. A family tragedy is forcing Beth and Frank back to Creekville, and with Walid along for the trip, the pressure Frank feels to hide who he is from his family is mounting.
As you might imagine, this film is not geared to younger audiences. Off the bat, you have some illegal drug use, alcohol abuse, and frequent profanity. Moreover, the subject matter is emotionally complex and difficult – younger viewers would be unlikely to understand a lot of the important nuance and historical context. There are also references to suicide and some truly disgusting instances of homophobia which could be upsetting for some viewers.
But for all that, this is a remarkably thoughtful movie. There are shades of meaning and nuance in the characters’ behavior which gives them a remarkable authenticity and sense of genuine emotion. I was expecting this to be a much more black-and-white look at homophobia and bigotry – and to be sure, some characters are determined to make it black-and-white – but for the most part, the film is a good deal more subtle. Or at least, more compelling.
This is one of those films where the balance between authenticity and accessibility comes into stark conflict for family audiences. By telling its story in unsparing detail, this film renders itself less likely to be watched by a mass viewership. As a critic writing for a family website, I keenly feel the tension here. Uncle Frank is a film with strong profanity and graphic sexual conversations, plus the aforementioned scenes of alcohol and drug use. But Uncle Frank is also a movie about honesty, self-worth, and the importance of family, and those are all good messages which you’re unlikely to find in a lot of other movies. With likeable, complex characters and a genuinely affecting story, this is a movie doing something different in the industry: it’s actually good.
While I know this isn’t going to sit well with everyone, I think you should watch it anyway – maybe especially if you think it isn’t for you. That’s my opinion but you’re going to have to weigh those competing factors and make your own decision.Directed by Alan Ball. Starring Paul Bettany, Sophia Lillis, and Peter Macdissi. Running time: 95 minutes. Theatrical release November 25, 2020. Updated February 5, 2021
Watch the trailer for Uncle Frank
Rating & Content Info
Why is Uncle Frank rated R? Uncle Frank is rated R by the MPAA for language, some sexual references and drug use.
Violence: A dead body is seen. A character is punched in the face. There are references to suicide and domestic violence.
Sexual Content: There are several sexually graphic conversations. Teenagers are seen making out. A number of male characters are seen in tight underwear. Individuals can be heard having sex in another room.
Profanity: There are 21 uses of extreme profanity and 6 uses of scatological cursing. There are infrequent uses of mild profanities and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Several characters are seen drinking to excess. One is described as an alcoholic. Individuals are frequently seen smoking tobacco. Several characters are seen smoking marijuana.
Page last updated February 5, 2021
Uncle Frank Parents' Guide
Although this movie is set in the 1970’s, discrimination against LGBTQ+ communities and individuals is still very much a present problem. According to the FBI, of the 7,120 hate crimes reported in 2018, nearly 20% were committed out of anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs. What kind of legal protections exist for people in those communities? What kind of struggles do they face?
Walid mentions that if he still lived in Saudi Arabia he would have been executed for his sexual orientation. Several nations still treat homosexuality as a capital offense – which countries are they? What kind of support do they have internationally? What could be done to protect LGBTQ+ people in those countries?
American Psychological Association: The Psychology of Hate Crimes
The Washington Post: Here are the 10 countries where homosexuality may be punished by death