Frankie (2 stars)

Frankie

This collaboration between director Ira Sachs and actress Isabelle Huppert lacks spark and substance

How acute the disappointment when a director you like and admire doesn't quite deliver. Ira Sachs is a past master of wry, well-observed portraits of love and longing in films like 2012's Keep the Lights On and 2014's Love Is Strange. Frankie seems to be perfectly suited to his skillset, as a woman gathers her nearest and dearest around her like a comforting blanket on a chilly autumn evening. Her desire to fix their lives, play matchmaker and tie up irritating loose ends creates the potential for something wise and witty with a melancholic Chekhovian bent.

Frankie has a picture postcard prettiness as it unfolds among the sunlight golds and azure seas of a Portuguese summer. It has the air of an Éric Rohmer film. Renowned actress Frankie (Isabelle Huppert) has taken a glorious villa and surrounded herself with family, including her husband Jimmy (Brendan Gleeson), her ex-husband Michel (Pascal Greggory), restless son Paul (Jérémie Renier), who is soon to move to New York, unhappily married daughter Sylvia (Vinette Robinson) and old pal Ilene (Marisa Tomei), whom she thinks would be a perfect match for Paul.

There is a theatrical feel to a breezy film in which the string of conversations and confrontations seems to match the criss-crossing village pathways of Sintra. Our sense of Frankie is constantly being defined by the emotions she provokes in others. The trouble with the film is that the dialogue (from Sachs and co-writer Mauricio Zacharias) often feels stilted, some of the characters never quite ring true and there is a heavy handedness to something that requires the lightest of touches. The starry ensemble cast bring conviction to the situations and family dynamics. But their best efforts still can't disguise the way in which something seemingly substantial and profound drifts away towards the inconsequential.

Available to watch in cinemas from Fri 28 May.

Frankie

  • 2 stars
  • 2019
  • France / Portugal
  • 1h 40min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Ira Sachs
  • Written by: Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias
  • Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Sennia Nanua, Ariyon Bakare

Three generations have to face up to some home truths over the course of a day in a beautiful town in Portugal.