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Marisa Tomei and Isabelle Huppert in Frankie.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

  • Frankie
  • Directed by: Ira Sachs
  • Written by: Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias
  • Starring: Isabelle Huppert and Brendan Gleeson
  • Classification: PG; 98 minutes

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Consummate New York filmmaker Ira Sachs takes his bittersweet art-house style on vacation to Portugal in Frankie. The resulting day in the life feels like an Éric Rohmer anthology film, by way of Chekhov. As holidays are wont to do, the idyllic locale and the abstraction from the daily routine paradoxically bring life choices into sharper relief. That’s even more the case when Isabelle Huppert is the matriarch and has assembled a group of extended family that is variously strained, estranged and, in some cases, strangers to one another. She’s superb here as a slightly kinder, though not gentler version of the grande actrice persona she plays of herself in an episode of the French Netflix series Call My Agent, even if the secret she and husband Brendan Gleeson have to share is the most telegraphed thing about the movie.

Reviews of films opening this week: Martin Scorsese’s gift The Irishman, and the familiar and formulaic holiday tale Last Christmas

To tell the story of nine people, each with (to some extent) an arc as well as a history, the details matter and the tone of the performances match well. (Huppert’s relaxed scenes with Marisa Tomei, who plays a long-time friend, feel especially real and touching, as are those with Gleeson). Sachs manages this day in the life without cumbersome exposition thanks to the texture of this casting, all while keeping the disparate concerns of three generations moving. Before the sun sets majestically in the historic town, a moment that arguably defines the film is the transition from a scene of Huppert and Gleeson at the piano to two teens on the beach, from a seasoned couple in twilight to young people who are fumbling into the beginning of something. That’s the greater imprint and image it leaves behind – that the people are just specs in that primordial landscape, simultaneously banal and momentous.

Frankie opens Nov. 8 in Toronto, Nov. 15 in Montreal

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