Tragedy and comedy combine in the new Thanksgiving film, Uncle Frank, which will be out through Amazon Video on November 25. Written and directed by Alan Ball (True Blood), the story follows Frank Bledsoe as he confronts the demons of his past when he heads home for his father’s funeral.
Ball and the film’s star, Paul Bettany, recently chatted with Screen Rant about the personal connection the director has to this particular work and why Frank’s story mirrors the healing today’s society also needs.
Alan, this movie has a lot to say for people that have experienced tragedy. Can you talk to me a little bit about how you so effectively added pain from your life into the fabric of this film in story?
Alan Ball: Well, when I was 13 years old, I was in a car accident and my sister was killed. She was driving car, I was in the car, and it changed my life. I mean, it immediately turned my life into before and after. And it’s something I’ve been running from for most of my early life.
I think when one has experienced a life-changing trauma like that, it’s not something you ever fully just get over and leave behind. For years, I blamed myself because she was driving me to my piano lesson. Frank’s experience with Sam and his blaming himself, although it’s not the exact same thing, it’s about how do you live with yourself when you survived something that took someone who you loved very, very much? How do you get past that?
I think the way that he’s dealt with it is to leave town and build a new life for himself in New York, and think, “Okay, well, I left all that behind me.” But you never really leave it behind you. One of the things people ask me is, “What do you hope people will take away from this movie?” One of the things is that it’s never too late. It’s never too late to start to heal from the worst thing that ever happened to you. You don’t have to be in your 20s, there’s no time period where that’s when you have to figure it out by.
In a way, Frank’s beginning of his healing process is is a way for me to work on my continual healing process of my own.
Paul, most of the tension in this film derives from secrets and hidden lives. Why is it important, whether he realizes it or not, for Frank to come home at this point emotionally for his father’s funeral?
Paul Bettany: Well, Frank doesn’t know why. Which is why everybody needs a Wally. In fact, Frank is pretty convinced that he shouldn’t go back and should avoid that experience. And Wally is, of course, right.
I think that it’s a wonderful story about a man who’s sort of split himself in two, and who, through the power of the love of his partner, is able to is able to rejoin the two halves of his life. And I think right now, that’s a really – it’s always a lovely story to tell. But right now, as we move towards this holiday season, I think a story about a family that has very different views on how one should live one’s life, being able to overcome differences and heal, I think is a moving story to tell.
Alan, Paul is amazing in the role of Frank. Can you talk to me about what Paul brought to the role that may have not necessarily been on the page?
Alan Ball: Paul has a sort of inherent fundamental decency and dignity and goodness, which he sometimes hides with a really wicked sense of humor, which I certainly do so myself. But I always wanted Frank to be a character who had that profound decency and dignity. And he definitely brought that.
I never had a picture of Frank in my head when I was writing it. But when we spoke on the phone, it just became really clear that we were both on the same page, we both approached work the same way, and we both saw this story in the same way. And then there was a day where the DP was doing camera tests, and he shot a still photo of Paul with a mustache and the glasses and the cigarette and the tweedy jacket. And I remember seeing that photograph, and I was just like, “That’s him. That’s him.” I never saw him looking like that, but I can’t imagine him being anybody else than Paul.