The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. It was released theatrically in Ireland on 9 May 2014 and on DVD and On-Demand on 12 September 2014. It was released in cinemas in the United Kingdom on 9 May 2014.
Jon lives in a small coastal town 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 about Jon, except for Frank, the band leader who constantly wears a paper-mâché mask over his head. The concert goes well until Clara breaks her theremin and storms offstage.
Frank invites Jon to become a full-time member of the band. He accompanies them to Ireland, where they plan to record their first album in a remote cabin until they get it done, which ends up being for the next 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, 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 Jon reveals he has been posting the band's recording sessions online. The Soronprfbs have gained a small following and have been invited to South by Southwest. Clara displays contempt to Jon and they end up having sex in the hot tub, but she threatens to kill him if the trip to America screws up.
Upon arrival in Texas, Jon, Frank, and Clara scatter Don's ashes but realize Baraque accidentally replaced them with powdered food. Things start to break down as the performance draws near. There are creative differences. On the day of the concert, Clara and Frank disappear. Jon finds them in an alley, but 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 return 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. 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 realizes 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, 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. Jon finally sees Frank without a mask. Frank's face and head are scarred from wearing the mask. Jon takes Frank to a bar, where Clara, Nana and Baraque are playing. Frank approaches the band and they realize who he is. He begins singing and they start playing with him, while Jon watches. As Frank sings, 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. Director Lenny Abrahamson said that Fassbender was "very comfortable" wearing the head and said that he even enjoyed acting in it.
Domhnall Gleeson as Jon Burroughs, a young wannabe musician who joins Frank's band.
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Clara Wagner, Frank's often aggressive sidekick who plays a Korg MS-20 and a theremin. 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. 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.
Scoot McNairy as Don, the band's manager, producer and sound engineer.
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. Jon Ronson, who co-wrote the film, was part of Sidebottom's band, and the plot began as an adaptation of his writings but later became a fictional take on it. The film shot in County Wicklow, Dublin, and New Mexico in 2013.
Stephen Rennicks served as music director, tasked to write songs that were a hybrid of pop and experimental rock music. 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. The music performed by the band in the film was recorded live by the cast while filming.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on 17 January 2014. When audiences went to see the film at Sundance, they were all given masks similar to that worn by Frank in the film. The film premiered in Europe at its European premiere in Dublin on 25 April 2014. The film was released in cinemas nationwide in the Republic of Ireland on 9 May 2014 and in the United Kingdom on 9 May 2014.
Frank received highly positive reviews from critics and has a rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 152 reviews with a weighted average score of 7.5/10. Most of the praise was directed towards the cast (especially Fassbender's performance) and the quirky nature of the film. The consensus states. "Funny, clever, and endearingly unusual, Frank transcends its quirky trappings with a heartfelt — and surprisingly thought-provoking — story." On review aggregator Metacritic, Frank has a score of 75 out of 100 based on 33 critics, signifying "generally favourable reviews".
The Daily Telegraph's Amber Wilkinson rated the film 4/5, calling it "off-beat and punk-spirited." 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". Mark Kermode of The Observer named it one of the top five films of 2014 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. However, Smith also found it unfortunate that the film came "crashing down in a total bummer of a third act". 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.