In 1973, teenage Beth (Sophia Lillis) leaves her rural hometown to study at New York University where her estranged uncle Frank (Paul Bettany) is a revered literature professor. She soon discovers that Frank is gay and living with his longtime partner, Wally (Peter Macdissi)—an arrangement he has kept secret for years. After the sudden death of surly patriarch Mac (Stephen Root), Frank reluctantly returns home for the funeral with Beth and Wally in tow. Along the way, he’s forced to reckon with the ghosts of the past and finally face his family. Writer-director Alan Ball’s heartfelt road movie travels from the bohemian scene of post-Stonewall New York City to rural South Carolina, following Frank’s rocky road to self-acceptance. Bettany’s moving performance reveals Frank’s fragile core, peeling away the layers of his cool persona and cosmopolitan trappings. As in his exceptional TV dramas (Six Feet Under, True Blood), Ball elicits strong turns from his ensemble, including Steve Zahn as Frank’s beer-swilling brother and Margo Martindale as the family’s long-suffering matriarch.

Uncle Frank