Directed by: Mark Lamprell
Written by:Mark Lamprell
Starring: Sam Neill, Sinead Cusack, Matthew Newton, Sacha Horler, Rose Byrne
Released: August 17, 2000
Grade: A-

It’s been a great year for Australian films at both a qualitative and quantitative level.  A record 25 films are vying for AFI consideration this year and My Mother Frank is sure to be a contender.  Based on an original screenplay by Mark Lamprell that was inspired from his own life story, My Mother Frank is a poignant film with plenty of light-heartedness mixed with touching emotion.

Frances, known to all as Frank, is a devout Catholic who’s lived a reclusive life since her husband passed away several years ago.  Her son David (Newton) wants to see her mother “get a life” and bluntly puts it to her that she should enrol in an adult education course to get out of the house and learn new things.  Frances takes David’s idea one step further.  She enrols at the same Sydney university David attends and the two worlds are set to collide.

Overwhelmed by new experiences, Frank is soon at odds with her university lecturer (Neill) over a serious plagiarism dispute.  Meanwhile, David finds himself lusting after the girlfriend of his best mate.  Sparks are in the air and when they catch alight, Frank and David find their relationship severely strained.

My Mother Frank is a strong story developed through really great performances.  It is ultimately the tale of a mother-son relationship and I’m sure many can relate to their emotional states.  There are also some nice scenes involving the continual appearance of two nuns.

Director Mark Lamprell could not find the perfect actress to play Frank in Australia and was forced to look abroad.  His eventual choice, Sinead Cusack, is an Irish actress who’s most widely seen performance was in Stealing Beauty so she’s not exactly a big name.  Regardless, she is the shining light of My Mother Frank and her performance is one of the best of the year.  Her character has a tough exterior hiding a vulnerable interior and Cusack exhibits these qualities with her brilliance.  Matthew Newton, son of Bert, also shows he’s got a big future ahead of him with this film coming hot on the heels of his role in the big Australian hit, Looking For Alibrandi.

It is the strong screenplay that makes My Mother Frank such an enjoyable view.  There has been a striking lack of story in many films this year that makes this all the more appreciated.  It doesn’t rely on typical Australian stereotypes and doesn’t rely on rehashed Hollywood formulas.  Winner of the audience prize at the 2000 Brisbane International Film Festival, My Mother Frank is not to be missed.  It’s a tribute to Australian filmmaking and shows the rest of the world just how we like to see it done.