Some people manage to stay young no matter how old they are. Frank Pour falls into this category. Machinist, song writer, keyboard player, and now star of Matthew Ginsburg's "Uncle Frank," he's still going strong in his mid-80s.
Mr. Pour and his wife Tillie live modestly but happily in Rome, New York, a city which has not aged nearly as well as Uncle Frank. The air force base has closed, the mills are in ruins, and the children, including Frank's, mostly have left for greener pastures. What's left are empty streets and retirement homes, where Frank regularly plays for the residents.
To these people Frank literally is a hero. When he lugs the 35 pound keyboard into "God's waiting room" and plays the standards of 70 years ago, they sing along or even dance. Sadly some of the seniors are past enjoying Frank's music, but most look forward to his visits, the one joy in their restricted, declining lives.
The film follows Uncle Frank for two years (1999-2001) and gradually it becomes clear he's not exactly 84 any more. Tillie worries about him and her concerns eventually prove well founded. Not surprisingly, what suspense the film offers centers on the state of Frank's health.
Ginsburg, who is Frank's great-nephew, wisely doesn't overstate the contrast between Rome's decline and his uncle's vitality. This is a film about a lively old man, not his broken down town. Frank shows us the crumbling factory where he worked for 34 years and he scoffs at the damage done by urban renewal, but that's about it. Frank clearly doesn't focus on the past, which is one of his strengths and the film's.
"Uncle Frank" is real life. It's not a movie as we've come to understand the term. The entertainment here is in our getting to know the Pours and some of the retirees. They aren't movie stars, but they have more to say, and sometimes better lines.
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