Frank (film)

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Frank movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLenny Abrahamson
Produced byDavid Barron
Ed Guiney
Stevie Lee
Screenplay by
Based onA newspaper article
by Jon Ronson[1]
Music byStephen Rennicks
CinematographyJames Mather
Edited byNathan Nugent
Distributed by
Release date
  • 17 January 2014 (2014-01-17) (Sundance)
  • 9 May 2014 (2014-05-09) (Ireland/United Kingdom)
Running time
95 minutes[3]
  • Ireland
  • United Kingdom
Budget$1 million
Box office$1.9 million[4][5]

Frank is a 2014 Irish-British independent black comedy film directed by Lenny Abrahamson, produced by David Barron, Ed Guiney and Stevie Lee and written by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan. It stars Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy, and François Civil.

The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. It was released theatrically in Ireland and Britain on 9 May 2014[6] and on DVD and On-Demand on 12 September 2014.[7]


Jon lives in a small coastal town in England but aspires to be a songwriter. While walking along the beach, Jon witnesses a man trying to drown himself. The man is revived but taken to the hospital. Jon talks to Don, who explains the man was a keyboardist in an experimental band called the Soronprfbs, managed by him. Jon mentions that he plays keyboards and is invited to play with him in town that night. Jon goes along and meets the rest of the band, all of whom are reluctant to accept him as a member except for Frank, the band's leader, who constantly wears a papier-mâché mask over his head. They play a concert which goes well until Clara throws a keyboard module from the stage, after an electrical fault.

Frank invites Jon to become a full-time member of the band. He accompanies them to Ireland, where they plan to record their debut album in a remote cabin which ends up taking them a year. Don becomes depressed and explains to Jon that he wants to be a songwriter, but is terrible. He plays a song for Jon, who compliments it. The next morning after completing work on their album, Jon finds what appears to be Frank's corpse hanging from a tree. He calls the rest of the band down and they remove the mask, only to find it was Don wearing one of Frank's masks. Don is cremated and it is revealed that Don was the original keyboard player. Jon reveals he has been posting the band's recording sessions on YouTube and Twitter. The Soronprfbs have gained a small fan following and have been invited to South by Southwest. Clara displays contempt for Jon and, after having angry sex in the hot tub, she threatens to stab him if the trip to America screws up.

Upon arrival in Texas, Jon, Frank, Clara, Baraque and Nana stop to scatter Don's ashes but realise Baraque accidentally picked up some of Frank's powdered food. Things start to break down as the performance draws near. There are creative differences and many arguments. On the day of the concert, Clara and Frank disappear. Jon finds them in an alley where Clara is trying to calm Frank down after he suffers a mental breakdown. As Jon tries to reason with Frank, Clara stabs Jon in the leg and runs away. She is later arrested by the police. The drummer Nana and bassist Baraque reveal their strong hatred for Jon and quit the band, returning to England the night before the concert. At the concert, only Jon and Frank remain of the band. As they go onstage, Frank refuses to sing, forcing Jon to sing one of his songs. Frank dislikes it and suffers a nervous breakdown and collapses on stage. After they move into a motel, Jon attempts to reason with Frank, which ends in them arguing and Jon trying to remove Frank's head. Frank runs out of the motel room and is hit by a car, smashing the fake head. Jon gives chase but realises Frank has escaped, now without the fake head.

Sometime later, Jon has attempted to track down Frank, but all his attempts have failed. He finally succeeds in tracking Frank to his hometown of Bluff City, Kansas, where he is living with his parents. They explain that Frank has suffered from severe mental health issues all his life and began wearing the mask as a teenager after his Dad made it for him. Jon finally sees Frank without a mask. Frank's face and head are scarred from years of wearing the mask. Jon takes Frank to a bar where Clara, Nana and Baraque are playing as a trio. Frank approaches the band and they realise who he is. He begins singing and they start accompanying him while Jon watches smiling. Before the conclusion of their act, Jon leaves the bar.


  • Michael Fassbender as Frank, the eccentric titular character and leader of the band who wears a large papier-mâché head throughout the film, similar to that worn by Frank Sidebottom.[8] Director Lenny Abrahamson said that Fassbender was "very comfortable" wearing the head and said that he even enjoyed acting in it.[9]
  • Domhnall Gleeson as Jon Burroughs, a young wannabe musician who joins Frank's band.[10]
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal as Clara Wagner, Frank's often aggressive sidekick who plays a Korg MS-20 and a theremin.[11][12] Gyllenhaal originally turned down the role, saying that she didn't understand it, but the story stuck with her and weeks later she changed her mind.[13] Before filming started, Gyllenhaal decided to act as though Clara was Frank's true love but said that it was hard due to Frank's head.[9]
  • Scoot McNairy as Don, the band's manager, producer and sound engineer.[12]
  • Carla Azar as Nana, the band's drummer.
  • François Civil as Baraque, the band's French guitar player.


Frank is a fictional story mostly inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the comic persona of Chris Sievey who is thought to have given his backing to the film before his death, but the plot was also inspired by other musicians like Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart.[10][14] Jon Ronson, who co-wrote the film, was part of Sidebottom's band,[15] and the plot began as an adaptation of his writings but later became a fictional take on it.[13][16] The film shot in County Wicklow, Dublin, and New Mexico in 2013.[17][18][19]

Stephen Rennicks served as music director, tasked to write songs that were a hybrid of pop and experimental rock music.[20] Rennicks was inspired by musicians he met while in his own 1980s band the Prunes, wrote the score and supervised the recordings of his original songs.[20] The music performed by the band in the film was recorded live by the cast while filming.[12]


The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on 17 January 2014.[21] When audiences went to see the film at Sundance, they were all given masks similar to that worn by Frank in the film.[9] The film premiered in Europe at its European premiere in Dublin on 25 April 2014.[22] The film was released in cinemas nationwide in the Republic of Ireland on 9 May 2014[23][6] and in the United Kingdom on 9 May 2014.[24]


Frank received highly positive reviews from critics and has a rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 163 reviews with a weighted average score of 7.46/10. The website's critical consensus states, "Funny, clever, and endearingly unusual, Frank transcends its quirky trappings with a heartfelt — and surprisingly thought-provoking — story."[25] On review aggregator Metacritic, Frank has a score of 75 out of 100 based on 33 critics, signifying "generally favourable reviews".[26]

The Daily Telegraph's Amber Wilkinson rated the film 4/5, calling it "off-beat and punk-spirited."[27] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave it four stars out of five, saying: "Frank works as satire, as memoir, as comedy bromance, but it works mostly because it is just so weird".[28] Mark Kermode of The Observer named it one of the top five films of 2014 [29] Kyle Smith of the New York Post described it as a "whimsical delight", saying it has a lot of heart, and commenting positively on Gleeson in particular.[30] However, Smith also found it unfortunate that the film came "crashing down in a total bummer of a third act".[12][30] Criticism for the film was largely based on how the plot developed towards its end.

In conjunction with the U.S. release of the film, Michael Fassbender made an appearance as Frank with his band on The Colbert Report.[31]


Date of ceremony Group Category Recipient(s) Result
7 December 2014[32] British Independent Film Awards Best Screenplay Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan Won
Best Director Lenny Abrahamson Nominated
Best Technical Achievement – Music Stephen Rennicks Won
Best Supporting Actor Michael Fassbender Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal Nominated
December 2014[33] Les Arcs European Cinema Festival Best Score Stephen Rennicks Won
2014 Irish Film and Television Awards Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Film Domhnall Gleeson Won
18 December 2014[34] Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards Best Song "I Love You All" Won


  1. ^ Debruge, Peter (24 January 2014). "Film Review: 'Frank'". Variety. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  2. ^ "Irish Film Board - Media Hub - Trailers - Frank". Irish Film Board - Media Hub.
  3. ^ "FRANK (15)". Artificial Eye. British Board of Film Classification. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Frank (2014) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo.
  5. ^ "Frank (2014) - International Box Office Results - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo.
  6. ^ a b "Frank [film review]". 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2017. Release Date: 9th May 2014
  7. ^ "Frank: A Film by Lenny Abrahamson - Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy and Michael Fassbender - Available on DVD and Blu-ray™". Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  8. ^ Han, Angie (17 January 2014). "'Frank' Clip: Yes, That's Michael Fassbender Under the Giant Fake Head". /FILM. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  9. ^ a b c Buchanan, Kyle (18 January 2014). "Sundance: How to Make Michael Fassbender Unattractive". Vulture. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  10. ^ a b White, Steve (6 September 2012). "Michael Fassbender is about to go big-headed... playing Frank Sidebottom in a new film". Metro. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  11. ^ Kemp, Stuart (10 January 2013). "'Frank' First Look: New Still Released From Film Set". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  12. ^ a b c d Debruge, Peter (18 January 2014). "Sundance Film Review: 'Frank'". Variety. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  13. ^ a b Kit, Borys (18 January 2014). "Sundance: Cast of Michael Fassbender's 'Frank' Thought Film Was 'Bizarre'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  14. ^ "Maggie Gyllenhaal to star alongside Michael Fassbender in 'Frank'". NME. 1 January 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  15. ^ Ronson, Jon (30 May 2006). "Oh blimey!". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  16. ^ Ronson, Jon (12 January 2014). "Frank Sidebottom: the true story of the man behind the mask". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  17. ^ White, James (30 December 2012). "Maggie Gyllenhaal on For Frank". Empire. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  18. ^ Tilly, Chris (10 January 2013). "First Pic of Michael Fassbender as Frank Sidebottom". IGN. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  19. ^ "'Calvary' and 'Frank' World Premieres at Sundance". The Irish Film & Television Network. 10 December 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  20. ^ a b Mroch, John (20 August 2014). "The Story Behind the Bizarre Songs Michael Fassbender Sings in Frank". LA Weekly. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  21. ^ Fleming, Mike (17 January 2014). "Sundance: 'Frank's Lenny Abrahamson Makes Element Pictures First-Look Deal". Deadline. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  22. ^ "Fassbender to attend Frank premiere in Dublin". 15 April 2014.
  23. ^ Donald Clarke (2 May 2014). "Lenny talks Frank: the movie that won't give him a big head". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 January 2017. The odd, angular Frank hits cinemas next week.
  24. ^ Eisenberg, Eric (20 January 2014). "Michael Fassbender Wears A Paper Mache Head, Sets Up Some Ground Rules in First 'Frank' Clip". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  25. ^ "Frank (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  26. ^ "Frank Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  27. ^ Wilkinson, Amber (19 January 2014). "Sundance 2014: Frank, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  28. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (8 May 2014). "Peter Bradshaw's Frank Review". The Guardian.
  29. ^ "My Top Ten Films of 2014 - Part 2". Kermode Uncut. 30 December 2014.
  30. ^ a b Smith, Kyle (18 January 2014). "Odd-ball flick 'Frank' brings heart to Sundance". New York Post. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  31. ^ Fischer, Russ (7 August 2014). "Michael Fassbender Performs as 'Frank' on 'The Colbert Report'". Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  32. ^ "Nominations 2014". 3 November 2014. Archived from the original on 4 January 2015. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  33. ^ Fabien Lemercier (19 December 2014). "Les Arcs crowns The Fool". Cineuropa.
  34. ^ "'Birdman' and genre love from Las Vegas film critics". 18 December 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.

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