Director: Ira Sachs
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei, Jérémie Renier, Paul Greggory and Greg Kinnear
Frankie, played by Isabelle Huppert, a successful actress, is dying of cancer and wants to spend one more holiday together with her family in Portugal. At this momentous event, every member of the family is going through change in their own lives. Divorce, moving to America, growing up and going to college. Most of the time they aren’t even with Frankie, who spends a lot of the film walking around by herself, even being invited to a local’s birthday party, much to her displeasure. Throughout the 90ish minutes the film juggles all these storylines, without giving any of them any heft or purpose.
The cast is exceptional. Huppert is joined by Marisa Tomei, Greg Kinnear and Brendan Gleeson, alongside others. They are all fantastic and bring life to their characters, but that doesn’t do much to fix a dull script. It’s dull and a bore to watch. Halfway through I was wishing I had a watch, just so I could guess how long was left without checking my phone.
This is a film that needs to lean heavily on its characters, with little plot. We only spend one day of their family vacation during the film and right from the start with a slow opening sequence of Frankie going swimming in the hotel pool, the tone is set. It’s reflective, sombre and drawn out.
Portugal is beautiful and the way the scenery is shot, almost makes the film worth watching, especially after a year of being stuck mostly indoors. Director Ira Sachs does a fantastic job of making you feel like you are there and seeing this on the big screen after being away from cinemas for such a long time is a treat for the eyes.
A fantastic cast and exceptional scenery don’t save the lacking script though. It’s slow and boring. You can feel that Frankie is trying to be something poignant and sombre, and it doesn’t achieve it. It is reminiscent of a more serious version of What We did on our Holiday from 2014. Someone is coming to the end of their life and yet life continues for those around them. Unlike with Holiday where there’s heart-felt good time to be had, with Frankie you will be glad it was over.