2014, Movies

Frank (2014, Lenny Abrahamson)

Frank has a premise like so many other recent indie dramedies: the premise is just a touch too wacky for belief and everyone is just a touch too eccentric to exist in reality. There has been a rash of these films in the last 15 years or so, and I have to say I’m getting sick of them.Rather, I’ve been sick of them for some time.

But Frank transcends its genre in a number of ways:

  • having an outsider (to the eccentrics) as the character the audience focuses on makes everything a
    little less zany – and he’s based on a real person, which helps;
  • they are musicians, which we expect to be eccentric, and so they are easier to believe as eccentrics;
  • and, without knowing enough about it, I think I can pronounce that the view of mental illness
    here is a little more complex than in the numerous other “indie” dramedies which focus on mental illness – certainly, the explanation is more nuanced than films like this usually manage.

Now, the music itself isn’t quite as weird as they’d like us to believe, but that’s part of the appeal of the film, I think, as I actually want to see this band, and that’s a rare accomplishment.

On the whole I found myself laughing maniacally at times but still touched by the end. (And, I must
note, the catharsis in this film is significantly less over-the-top than it is in other films of its genre. I am thinking of something like Jeff, Who Lives At Home as a movie that gets this wrong. Frank gets it right.)

This is about as excellent as the genre gets. Really worth your time.


  • Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
  • Produced by David Barron, Ed Guiney, Stevie Lee
  • Written by Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan Based on a newspaper article by Jon Ronson
  • Starring
    • Michael Fassbender as Frank, the titular character and leader of the band who wears a large papier-mâché head throughout the film, similar to that worn by Frank Sidebottom in real life
    • Domhnall Gleeson as Jon Burroughs, a young musician who joins Frank’s band
    • Maggie Gyllenhaal as Clara Wagner, Frank’s sidekick who plays a Korg MS-20 and a theremin
    • Scoot McNairy as Don, the band’s manager, producer and sound engineer
    • Carla Azar as Nana, the band’s drummer
    • François Civil as Baraque, the band’s French guitar player
  • Music by Stephen Rennicks
  • Cinematography by James Mather
  • Edited by Nathan Nugent
  • Production companies: Film4, Irish Film Board – Bord Scannán na hÉireann, Element Pictures, Runaway Fridge Films
  • Distributed by Magnolia Pictures, Element Pictures
  • Release date: 17 January 2014
  • Running time: 95 minutes
  • Countries: Ireland, United Kingdom
  • Language: English
  • Budget: £1 million
  • Box office: £1.2 million

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