Starring: Sinead Cusack, Matthew Newton, Sam Neill
Director: Mark Lamprell
CATHOLICISM has been portrayed in several major feature films released in Australia so far this year.
These include Holy Smoke, Dogma, All About My Mother, The End of the Affair, Return to Me, The Virgin Suicides and Looking for Alibrandi.
My Mother Frank makes it a cinematic octet. This film concerns Frank Kennedy (played by Sinead Cusack), a devout Catholic, who recently lost her husband. She loves her two children but dotes on her son David (Matthew Newton) who lives at home while he attends university. David is keen for his mother to “get a life”. Frank decides to enrol in a literature course at David’s university. She ends up in lectures with some of her son’s friends. This was not the life David wanted his mother to get!
Frank has to battle the demands of study, the scorn of her son, the dismissal of her lecturer Professor Mortlock (Sam Neill), the initial disdain of her nun friends Srs Joan and Bernadette and the pleading of her daughter Margaret and best friend, Jane, to give it all away. Towards the end we find out that Frank has an even greater battle on her hands.
This film is part Educating Rita, part Mother and Son. Unfortunately, My Mother Frank is not as good as any of its parts.
There are several technical problems – a boom drops into shot; camera lights are seen in the reflection of an actor’s glasses; there are lighting, location and time discontinuities and some clumsy editing.
The story is weak too. Cusack and Newton give very good performances, given that they have such little material with which to work. Mark Lamprell’s characters are all overdrawn.
Catholicism in this film is a parody as well.
The film ends with Frank and her professor waiting for a miracle. I hope their prayers were answered because my pleas for something to save this film went unheeded.
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is director of the Australian Catholic Film Office and writes each week for The Catholic Leader.