"As far as Vision is concerned," Paul Bettany tells Inverse, "that's an entirely different situation: a synthetic synthesite is trying to figure out what it means to be human and what love is. That's a very different situation."
A different situation from what, you may be asking? And that's fair. While audiences, and the internet, have been racking their collective brains over what WandaVision may have in store — the series finds Vision, who died (?) in Avengers: Infinity War, and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) living together inside different family sitcom realities, it seems — the veteran actor has been splitting his attention between his upcoming return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the iconic synthetic superhero, and Uncle Frank, an indie film he stars in that's streaming on Amazon next Wednesday.
Uncle Frank, which was written and directed by Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood), tells the story of a New York college professor who heads back to his childhood home for a funeral. That might not sound too interesting, until you take into consideration the fact that the year is 1973 and he's kept his homosexuality a secret from his southern relatives. This road trip movie comes to a head when Frank is forced to reconcile a deep shame that fractured his trust and connection to his family at a young age.
"Frank is running away from his family, but not because he's sort of turning his back on them through any source of, I don't know, disgust or something," Bettany says. "I think that he has deep-seated worries about how they will react to who he actually is. And who he actually is, is something that he is keeping very secret and separate. And living in that compartmentalized fashion is, I think, pretty unhealthy."
One could view Uncle Frank as a snapshot of America during a difficult time of transition. It was still two years before The Vietnam War would come to an end and the country was deep in the midst of an identity crisis — a push-pull between the exceptional image the country outwardly projected versus a darker uncertainty that lingered right beneath the surface.
The same type of conflict is on full display in Frank's story. Instead of coming clean to his family, he chose to pursue what seemed, outwardly, like a comfortable city life on the east coast. But the childhood trauma remained right under the surface, driving Frank to partake in some damaging behavior. The familial loss he's forced to recon with brings Frank his own come to Jesus moment — one that would either destroy him or finally allow him to step into his power once and for all.
"This story is the story of Frank getting right with himself and accepting who he is, and trusting that his family will deal with it one way or another," Bettany continues. "And they do. There are different reactions. In the end, not everybody is embracing of it. But there are enough family members that accept Frank for who he is."
When putting Uncle Frank and WandaVision side-by-side, the two projects look and feel absolutely different. But when you peel away the comic book mystique of the upcoming Disney+ series, the similarities between Bettany's Frank and Vision begin to appear. At their core, both men are struggling to find some semblance of normalcy within their domestic home lives. Frank's lie about his sexuality ultimately blocks him from achieving peace with his family, and himself, to fully be able to pursue a life filled with love and happiness.
Vision, from what we've seen in the WandaVision promotional materials, is still facing the ongoing challenge of finding how he can best fit into the evolving concept of a quintessential American family. His domestic pairing with Wanda Maximoff, amid a backdrop of different TV sitcoms throughout time, pretty much makes it clear that Vision still has a lot to learn about who he is and how to love.
And sure, Paul Bettany is right. These are two very different situations. But, when you really get down to the basics of these emotional crises, whether it's the one Frank is faced with in Uncle Frank or the one Vision goes through in WandaVision, the hurdles one needs to jump to find connection and acceptance of others are just about as human as it can get.
Uncle Frank premieres November 25 on Amazon Prime Video. WandaVision drops January 15 on Disney+.