The story of director Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank is simple: Jon is a would-be songwriter with endless ideas in his head, but no outlet. He winds up joining, due to an accident, an unusual band called “Soronprfbs” which is led by the title character, Frank – a singer/songwriter who does not reveal his face at any time as it is covered by a huge paper-mache head of a neutral-looking being. This clever, dark and sweet film stars the always-riveting Michael Fassbender as the enigmatic Frank and the equally wonderful Maggie Gyllenhaal as Clara, the band’s theramin player and antagonist to Domhnall Gleeson’s warmer/sympathetic Jon – the “accidental keyboardist”.
Emotional ups-and-downs are well played in this story, which sees the band go through Smile-like paces during recording sessions at a secluded cabin in the Irish hills; the discovery that they have a following, thanks to Jon’s Tweets and YouTube postings and the chance to perform at South By Southwest – all of these situations are met head on with believable acting. There are some genuinely hilarious moments; tragic and mystifying segments and most surprisingly, some very good and completely original music – which was, in fact, performed by the cast and recorded while filming.
Based around the story of the late Chris Sievey, a post-punk musician with The Freshies (their most well-known song was “I Can’t Get “Bouncing Babies” by The Teardrop Explodes”) who created the persona/physical character Frank Sidebottom, this film has charm, fine acting, an interesting storyline from start to finish, good music and a lot of heart.