Many people who were lucky enough to see Ira Sachs’ 2014 movie “Love Is Strange” considered it one of the best films of that year. Including me. A beautiful film starring Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as a loving couple who have been together for 39 years and are finally allowed to marry legally, they exude warmth and humor and kindness — the kind of relationship that everybody would want. It is a delightful adventure-laden American-style film, set in New York City.
Sachs’ current film, “Frankie” is that 2014 film turned inside out, but it is still an engrossing work of art. It is set in Sintra, Portugal, where a large group of friends and family have come to enjoy a brief summer vacation in a wildly beautiful area of the turquoise sea, surrounded by the greenery of a densely packed forest.
The woman who has apparently gotten them all together is Frankie, an international film star whose first and second husbands are part of the entourage, plus her adult son, plus her hairdresser and her hairdresser’s boyfriend, plus people from the neighborhood who show up periodically
with opinions and problems of their own.
Most of the problems, however, deal with love. The quest for it. The uncertainty of it. The doubts about commitment. But the biggest problem is Frankie’s, which we learn about late in the film. She has an illness that is not only debilitating, but terminal.
So all the painful confessions and doubts do not make a film wherein everybody lives happily ever after. But nevertheless you wind up liking them all very much and wishing them well.
As I noted earlier, this film is an engrossing work of art. But not an American-style film. It is very European, with long, soulful closeups and lingering moments of scenery and conversation, much of it not in English.
Perhaps Americans as a whole are not as sophisticated as European movie-goers and need to have everything spelled out for them. Or with subtitles, at least. We are a generation used to the quick cuts of television and decisive explanations for everything that is said.
But anyone who has come to appreciate the slower pace of European films will enjoy writer/director Ira Sachs’ new offering (co-written with Mauricio Zacharias) very much indeed. And the distinctive presence of Isabelle Huppert as Frankie, Marisa Tomei as her devoted friend, and Jeremie Renier and Brendan Gleeson as Frankie’s two look-alike husbands, give this film a sweet aura of authenticity and charm.
“Frankie” will be released tomorrow (October 25th) in New York and Los Angeles. Look for it at your neighborhood theaters. And enjoy!
Cynthia Citron has lived and worked on every continent except Antarctica as a journalist, award-winning magazine editor, public relations director and screenwriter. She can be reached at email@example.com.