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New to VOD - FRANKIE

frankie review
An actress with terminal cancer gathers her family and friends for a final farewell.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ira Sachs

Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei, Jérémie Reiner, Vinette Robinson, Pascal Greggory, Greg Kinnear, Sennia Nanua

frankie poster

Ira Sachs' Frankie opens with a scene that suggests great potential. As the titular Frankie, Isabelle Huppert is scolded by a teenage girl for daring to bathe topless in a hotel pool. "Everyone can see you," the girl warns. "It's okay," Frankie replies, "I'm very photogenic."

A world-renowned actress, Frankie has learned that her cancer is past the point of no return, and so she finds herself past caring about trivialities like offending hotel guests. If that opening interaction suggests Sachs is about to cast Huppert in a role similar to Bette Davis in The Anniversary, that of a matriarchal figure having fun winding up her extended family members, then it's disappointing that the movie instead morphs into a directionless and dramatically flat family drama.

frankie review

Frankie gathers her family for one last get together in the scenic locale of Sintra, Portugal. Along with her current husband Jimmy (Brendan Gleeson) and ex Michel (Pascal Greggory), she's joined by her English daughter Sylvia (Vinette Robinson) and French son Paul (Jérémie Renier). On the fringes are Sylvia's husband Ian (Ariyon Bakare) and teenage daughter Maya (Sennia Nanua); Frankie's make-up artist Ilene (Marisa Tomei) and her cinematographer boyfriend Gary (Greg Kinnear); and Tiago, a Portuguese tour guide (Carloto Cotta).


These various groups all have their own subplots, but none are particularly original or interesting. Sylvia and Ian are on the verge of divorce. Paul is pining for a woman who left him. Ilene is disinterested in Gary's awkward marriage proposal, which he presents like a business pitch. Maya is romanced on the beach by a young local lothario. Tiago is contemplating leaving his wife.

frankie review

Like Woody Allen, Sachs is a filmmaker whose name is synonymous with New York, and Frankie could easily be mistaken for one of Allen's less successful European ventures. Here we have an immaculately assembled cast set against a stunningly scenic backdrop, but there's little for us to sink our teeth into. Huppert is particularly wasted. Despite playing the titular character, she's given barely any more screen time than the supporting cast, and her portrayal has little to say about facing death.


Too much of Frankie consists of characters telling us their backstories, and every time someone new enters the screen they begin to tell the nearest character of their troubles. None of it feels remotely natural, save for one strong scene in which Gary tries to pitch a film he wants to direct to Frankie, hoping she'll agree to take the lead role. As we watch Gary slowly die inside as he realises Frankie has no interest, we're reminded of what an absence Kinnear has been on our screens in recent years. The film Gary pitches concerns an opera singer who loses her voice. We're supposed to view such an idea as clichéd, but is it any less valid than the premise of a dying woman gathering her family together?

frankie review

Family reunion movies are two a penny, but they can work if they have something interesting to say. For a better version of Frankie, check out Robert Guediguian's beautifully observed The House by the Sea, in which a group of estranged siblings gather for their father's dying days. Unlike Frankie, the people who populate that movie feel human and relatable, and their director allows them space to breathe. We get to observe them in their quiet moments of solitude, through which we learn more about them than through any of the forced dialogue that comes out of the mouths of Sachs's characters here.

Frankie is on UK/ROI VOD now.



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