Frankie (Isabelle Huppert) is an actress and the matriarch of a broad family, whom she invites to Portugal upon receiving sad news. It’s a goodbye trip, an excuse to bury old hatchets before time expires. Frankie is a story about goodbyes, endings, the sometimes limited lifespan of love, and what comes after. The story dips frequently into melodrama, taking place over the course of the day Frankie’s family arrives. Incident after incident is crammed into a 24-hour timeframe. Break-ups, divorces, arguments, first loves. Ludicrous on the face of it, but occasionally emotionally salient thanks to the cast.
Frankie’s son, Paul (Jérémie Renier), has just gotten out of a divorce; her stepdaughter, Sylvia (Vinette Robinson), is on the verge of one. Her best friend, Irene (Marisa Tomei), arrives in Portugal with her boyfriend, Gary (Greg Kinnear), who has a more long-term relationship in mind than she does. Sylvia’s daughter, Maya, is exploring her own sexuality. Frankie’s ex-husband is floating around, too, along with her devoted husband Jimmy (Brendan Gleeson). The story moves at the pace of different characters interacting and questioning their love choices and futures. The monotony is grating in the moment but grew on me, slowly. It’s a wistful semi-downer that concludes with a self-reverential single shot of the characters all together in a fashion. There is no real propulsion to the story, just emotional conversations. Only endings.
Tomei and Huppert in particular shine as two women who take measure of their lives. Robinson, too, plays a character with a similar choices to make, but whose story feels like a subplot with no significant resolution. Of Frankie’s faults, this is the most glaring: Beyond Tomei and Huppert, every character feels incidental. They contribute to the themes but their stories fail to intertwine, and despite the final shots of the film, never feel like they come together enough to make those pieces matter. You’re left with a dour movie that nonetheless sticks with you, grows slowly. Everything ends, but I wish this one ended better.