A young man becomes the keyboard player for a very strange band led by the enigmatic, ever-masked Frank.
Frank is the latest from Irish director Lenny Abrahamson – who previously made Adam and Paul and What Richard Did. And it’s a very strange film.
I say this only to give you a taste of what to expect as in many ways it’s also Abrahamson’s most commercial proposition to date. It’s got big name stars, is set in three different countries and has a definite focus on humour which he hasn’t explored to this level before.
The plot unfolds from the perspective of Domhnall Gleeson’s Jon, with his narrative voice and personality told through on screen twitter posts and even a Tumblr blog. The presence of social media within the film is often inspired and deeply relevant – managing to be a source of humour as often as it reveals more about our supposed hero.
And that kind of depth is present in every aspect of Frank. While the first half can easily be taken as a strange, broad comedy (with frequent, hearty laughs), there’s always something else going on. The film deals with notions of creativity, genius and mental illness and the second half is deeply affecting for its ability to invert our expectations.
Gleeson role as the films anchor is vitally important and he does it brilliantly – though it’s strange that the Irish actor is becoming better known for playing as a Brit. Scott McNairy is a totally crazy band manager and Maggie Gyllenhaal an utterly terrifying Theremin player but the film still belongs to Michael Fassbender.
Beneath the ever-present head you can sense his ferocious personality. Frank may be an eccentric music-maker and be prone to bouts of almost violent creation but he’s much more than that. The character has moments of quiet introspection and a sweetness that projects outside the ridiculous prop. With just a voice and physical performance, Fassbender might have crafted his greatest performance yet.
When the film takes a trip to the US in the latter half, things do get a little lost. But Abrahamson is such a clever filmmaker that it’s just as likely to have happened on purpose. And it all comes together for the final few scenes which are touching and heartfelt while dealing head on with subjects you rarely see tackled in any kind of media.
Frank is a film that constantly subverts your expectations in its tone and content but still manages to contain enough hilarious moments to be accessible. Hopefully audiences will be drawn in by the presence of a name like Fassbender and will stay to witness one of the more unique and impressive movies I’ve seen all year.