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MY MOTHER FRANK

SYNOPSIS:
Fifty one year old widow Francis "Frank" Kennedy (Sinead Cusack) leads a boring life dominated by devout Roman Catholicism and an over-protective attitude to her university student son David (Matthew Newton). Her friend Jean (Lynette Curran) wants her to open a dress shop while David suggests she enrol in a course of some kind. After initial hesitation Frank enrols at the same campus as David, where conservative and chauvanistic Professor Mortlock (Sam Neill) seems determined to make her education as difficult as possible. After suffering humiliations culminating with the threat of expulsion, Frank takes on Mortlock while also confronting a personal crisis.

"The title got me in – I was intrigued. I closed my eyes and tried to dream up all kinds of weird and wonderful themes for a film so titled. I was not disappointed. Like the title, My Mother Frank, is full of delightful surprises. It's quirky and offbeat with characters so vivid, they simply jump from the screen. Mark Lamprell's lively script and direction is as energetic as his characters; the themes, a potpouri of delights – from relationships, religious guilt and pursuing goals. It's biting, funny, poignant and moving all at once. What is My Mother Frank about? It's better you don't know. The joy of this film is not so much what it's about, but the way it's done, and how the little crosses that we all bear are brought to light in a human and entertainingly funny way. Sinead Cusack is wonderful in the title role. Her character of Frances reminds me a little of Shirley Valentine – outspoken and endearingly honest. There are deep down chuckles and laughs out loud. We experience the trials and tribulations of life through her eyes, through the eyes of her son (Matthew Newton is a standout) and daughter (Sacha Horler, strong in a small role). Rose Byrne has screen presence and looks gorgeous, but the big round of applause goes to Sam Neill, whose fascinating performance as a cynical University lecturer is surely one of his best. All the ingredients dissolve seamlessly into the mix, including Brian Breheny's rich cinematography and a toe-tapping soundtrack. Everyone has a mother – Frank is one you should meet."
Louise Keller

"There's more of interest in sub-plots than centre stage in this middling Australian comedy-drama. That and some rather hard to swallow plot twists leave My Mother Frank as something of a disappointment without being a total failure. Audiences may wonder from the outset why the character of Frank is Irish when it seems to serve no beneficial purpose other than to reinforce the martyrish nature of her Catholic devotion. Sinead Cusack, fine actress though she may be, is hardly a box-office name, making the decision even more perplexing. Frank's also a character who is deliberately overbearing, interfering and neurotic at first but who doesn't change sufficiently for us to really warm to her. Even when the not-so-surprising major plot twist occurs at about the half way point it's an uphill task to really get behind her. If the heart of the film lacks the emotional pull it needs there's compensation on the periphery. Looking For Alibrandi star Matthew Newton makes another good impression as the frustrated son and his scenes with Rose Byrne, who plays the friend's girlfriend he secretly loves, have an appealing sweetness to them. Joan Lord and Melissa Jaffer are a delight as a pair of eccentric nuns and the wonderful Sam Neill deserves a medal for waiving his Hollywood film fee and yet again enhancing a local film by his presence. My Mother Frank doesn't quite achieve the mix of comedy and pathos it strives for but there's just enough here to warrant a look."
Richard Kuipers

"Mark Lamprell’s film is a little like a cappuccino - frothy on the surface, but with stronger stuff underneath. It’s one of those gentle comedies we Aussies do so well (think Proof or Death in Brunswick). This delightfully understated tale is actually quite complex, involving at least four important threads; but Lamprell doesn’t become bogged down at any stage and keeps the plot flowing. And it’s a welcome change to see an Australian film handling family issues sensitively but with a light touch. Most of the characters have a delicate reality about them. They’re people we all know or at least know of. I was particularly taken by Professor Mortlock - his resemblance to lecturers I actually encountered at university is uncanny. But the characters are only one ingredient in a mix of humour, romance and, yes, sadness towards the end, that’s entirely captivating. Even when the film veers into what could be overtly sentimental territory, it maintains just the right pitch to avoid mawkishness. Performances are of a uniformly high standard. The acclaimed Sinead Cusack puts in a fine turn as Frank. Her lovely Irish accent complements her comic timing and when called upon to deal with weightier material, she’s completely convincing. Matt Day lookalike Matthew Newton, and Rose Byrne both bring a refreshing slant on reasonably familiar characters. And Sam Neill is indomitable as the pernickety Professor Mortlock, whose gruff exterior masks a genuine compassion. Sacha Horler also makes an appearance in a role that’s light years from the one in Praise as the twin-set-and-pearls Margaret. Intelligent and beautifully observed, My Mother Frank is an invigorating addition to the year’s crop of Australian films."
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

HEAR Andrew L. Urban & Louise Keller talk about the film in Real Audio.

SCENE CLIP

ONSET FEATURE

BERLIN DIARIES

MY MOTHER FRANK (M)
(AUS)

CAST: Sinead Cusack, Matthew Newton, Sam Neill, Rose Byrne, Sacha Horler, Celia Ireland


DIRECTOR: Mark Lamprell

PRODUCER: Phaedon Vass, Susan Vass, John Winter

SCRIPT: Mark Lamprell

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brian Breheny

EDITOR: Nick Beauman

MUSIC: Peter Best

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michael Philips

RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BEYOND/UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: August 17, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista

VIDEO RELEASE: February 7, 2001







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