Sundance London – Frank Review ★★★


Putting your most famous actor inside a giant paper-mache head throughout the whole duration of a film sounds like a marketing suicide, but actually, Lenny Abrahamson  (What Richard Did, 2012) may have just hit indie film heaven. It does help that the actor behind the mask is no one but Michael Fassbender, in an unusual comedy role that requires no facial expression whatsoever. Frank is probably one of the most expected indie films of 2014.

Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is an aspiring English musician that lives a very boring life near the sea cost at his parents’ house, with time spent between tweeting ironic hashtags and trying to compose a good song. Everything changes when the cult band Soronprfbs has a gig in his town, and lose their keyboard player because of a suicide attempt. Jon steps in and two weeks later he finds himself in the middle of nowhere with the band, trying to record an original album. Frank (Michael Fassbender), the strange vocalist that never takes his paper head out – no, not even to shower – seems to enjoy Jon’s input, but the rest of the band resents his mainstream attitude. However, Jon’s social media incursions land the band a gig at the prestigious SXSW and so, Soronprfbs have a genuine chance at the fame game…

Based on a story by Jon Ronson, the man behind The Men Who Stare at Goats, – and the temporary keyboard player for Frank Longbottom’s Oh Blimey Big Band (!) – Frank is a reflection about the evils of the sell-out mainstream music, represented by Jon, and the wackiness of the avant-garde represented by the rest of the band. Frank is the pure artist, with a proper tortured background to go with it (Jon is deeply envious of this), that can compose brilliant music in a whim. In the end, the scenes picturing the struggle of the band to come up with brilliant, completely original music while in the middle of nature, are great and ring true but the film loses memento when they get onto the American road – just after the best ashes scattering scene ever. The original music, composed by Stephen Rennicks, is divided between weird, captivating sounds and just a bit too alternative, but makes the whole story much more believable.

It is a story with no final redemption, and you won’t hear from us if the head actually comes off or not (#spoilersareforlosers), but apart from the wacky humor (the best of it shown in the trailer, and with Jon’s asides to the outside world), there isn’t much to elevate Frank above other films of the kind. That is, apart from Fassbender faceless, all body language and voice tone performance, that takes away any doubt about who is really behind the mask, and that makes the film a must watch for fans of the occasionally not-naked-at-all actor. (#nomnomnom)

Frank will be in UK theatres on 9th May

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.