UNCLE FRANK*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Alex
In 1969, fourteen-year-old Betty Bledsoe (Sophia Lillis) lives in Creekville, South Carolina with her large extended southern family. She loves when her Uncle Frank (Paul Bettany), a professor, comes to visit from New York City, as he’s the only one who talks to her like a real person. Her grandfather, Frank’s father Daddy Mac (Stephen Root) is always cruel and cold to Frank, which Betty doesn’t understand since Frank is so kind, funny, and considerate.
Betty asks Frank if she can visit him someday – she dreams of going to New York. He tells her if she does well in school she can go anywhere she wants and be who she wants to be. He tells her once she gets out of a small town she can discover a world she never knew. She tells him she wishes she wasn’t named Betty – he tells her she can change it, and she likes Beth better. He tells her if she ever gets in trouble, pregnant, she should call him before anyone else.
In 1973, Beth goes out to New York for college, accompanied by her parents Kitty (Judy Greer) and her father, Frank’s brother, the very conservative and aggressive Mike (Steve Zahn). They have dinner at Frank and his girlfriend Charlotte’s place. No one in the family has heard of Charlotte, and Charlotte says it’s because Frank was worried what the family would think of him dating a Jewish woman. “At least you’re not black”, Mike says.
At college, Beth begins dating a boy named Bruce who is very excited to take Frank’s class. Beth tries to see Frank, who has been very busy, and she and Bruce overhear a colleague asking him about his party that evening. They go, and Wally (Peter MacDissi) answers the door. He has heard all about Beth and is thrilled to meet her. Peter goes to find Frank, and finds Charlotte kissing a woman. Wally is still jealous Charlotte go to meet Frank’s family – it becomes clear that Frank and Wally are boyfriends and Charlotte pretended to be his girlfriend in front of the family.
Bruce attempts to seduce Frank, revealing he was not interested in Beth romantically, but Frank rejects him completely. Frank finds Beth completely drunk and takes care of her with the help of Wally. Wally is upset that Frank smoked pot since he is a recovering alcoholic. Frank comes out to Beth, tells her that Wally is his boyfriend of ten years, and tells her about Bruce. He puts her bed in his guest room.
The next morning, Beth has breakfast with Frank and Wally, who explains he also isn’t out to his family because they are in Saudi Arabia, where he would be executed for being gay. Frank’s mother Mammaw (Margo Martindale) calls and tell Frank that Daddy Mac has died of a heart attack. Frank decides to drive with Beth for the funeral, and Wally wants to come with. Frank does not want him to go, but Wally feels Frank is pushing him away and that he will need him there. Frank doesn’t budge.
On the road, Frank and Beth bond, with Beth asking all sorts of questions about Frank’s real life. She asks who the first boy he ever had anything with was, and Frank tells her a boy from school, who he flashes back to spending time with. Later, Frank notices a car following them and stops the car. He gets out only to discover it’s Wally. Wally cheerfully tells Frank he forgot his razor and tie and rented a car. Frank is angry, but Wally tells him not to act like he’s not happy to see him. Frank says he cannot meet his family or come to the funeral, and Wally says ok but that Frank can always come to him.
They stay at a hotel, and the next day Beth rides with Wally for the next leg of the trip. Wally tries to get the gossip from Beth on her whole family. Frank has more flashbacks of being sixteen and kissing another boy, Sam, for the first time. Frank’s car breaks down, and so they leave the car at a mechanic and take Wally’s rental together. Frank flashes back to kissing Michael in his room and being discovered by Daddy Mac. When they arrive in Creekville, the clerk knows Frank and is disgusted by him, and Frank tells Wally to wait ten minutes before checking into his own room.
Before he sees his family, Frank stops and buys booze which he chugs down – he tells Beth not to tell Wally. At the viewing, Mike talks to Frank and begins crying telling him how sorry he is he never kept in touch. Frank drinks more in the bathroom while Wally calls him mom from a payphone. Meanwhile, Beth absent-mindedly mentions Wally to her mother. She and Frank come up with a lie that he’s a stranger they met. From the payphone, Wally sees Frank return and recognizes he’s been drinking and confronts him, saying he won’t go through this again.
At the funeral, Frank flashes back to his father telling him if he sees Sam again, he will kill them both, tells him if he goes down that path he will be a faggot, and tells him he will burn in hell. Frank then remembers rushing out to the lake and finds Sam drowned, having taken his own life. At the motel, Wally finds Frank’s booze bottles and pours them out. At the wake, Frank’s sister Neva (Jane McNeill), who knows Frank is gay and about Wally, wants Frank to bring him.
At the will reading, everyone is horrified when the lawyer reads that Mac has left Frank with “nothing but disgust for the perversion he engages in with other men and the shame that he carries my name”. Frank flees and drunkenly drives away. Beth goes to the motel to find him and tells Wally what happened. Frank drives out to the woods where he remembers meeting Sam and telling them they can’t see each other anymore, and repeats to Sam the same things his father said to him. He tells Sam never to come near him again. Later, Frank finds a note from Sam telling him he’ll never be normal and he’s sorry, and Frank rushes out to the lake to find him floating face up.
In present day, Frank walks the dock where he once found Sam. Beth and Wally run out to the lake and find his clothes on the dock’s edge. They assume he has killed himself and return to the motel, when Frank suddenly returns, telling them he’s just gone for a swim. Wally tries get Frank to see what he’s done and to stop drinking, but Frank just calls them freaks. The two get into a physical brawl, and Frank calls Wally a faggot and punches him in the face.
Frank goes to the cemetery and finds a grave, to which he cries and says “you couldn’t have even said it to my face” – but it’s not his father, it’s Sam’s. He asks him to forgive him. Wally finds him, and Frank collapses into his arms and says he has no family. Wally says he is his family. Frank says he is sorry and they kiss. Beth arrives and says the family wants him to come back. He says no, and she asks him about the conversation they had where he told her to be what she wanted to be. She says it changed her life, and now she finds he can’t do the same. Frank asks Wally to come meet his family.
Frank returns, where Mike is waiting. Mike tells him “two words: no problem” and hugs him – while a little uncomfortable, he is accepting. Kitty is thrilled. Neva is thrilled to finally meet Wally, though her husband appears very uncomfortable. Frank’s Aunt Butch (Lois Smith) tells him he’s going to hell, and he tells her he knows it’s the best she’s capable of. Mammaw tells him nothing will ever change how precious he is to her, and he cries in her arms. She tells him his father was scared of him and that Mac’s brother was gay, and it’s probably passed down. Mammaw gets to meet Wally, who gives her a necklace. The family sits in the backyard and Beth says in narration she felt like they were all exactly where they were supposed to be.
In 1973, Beth Bledsoe (Sophia Lillis) leaves her conservative South Carolina town and goes to New York for college and learns that her Uncle Frank, who she always liked, is gay and has been living with his boyfriend Wally (Peter MacDissi) for ten years. When Frank's father dies, they road trip back to South Carolina. Through flashbacks, we learn Frank's father (Stephen Root) discovered he was gay as a teenager and hated him ever since, and that when Frank repeated the horrible things his father said about him to his boyfriend Sam, Sam killed himself.
Frank begins abusing alcohol again when dealing with his family. The will his read, and his father not only leaves him nothing but outs him to his entire family. Frank flees and gets into a physical fight with Wally. He goes to Sam's grave and apologizes, and he apologizes to Wally who is there for him. Beth encourages him to come back to see the family, and his mother and brother accept him, while some of the rest of the family have varying degrees of acceptance, Frank is finally able to introduce Wally to his family.