Review: Saint Frances

Directed by Alex Thompson and written by lead actress Kelly O’Sullivan, after an accidental pregnancy turned abortion, a deadbeat nanny finds an unlikely friendship with the six-year old she’s charged with protecting. Also starring: Charin Alvarez, Lily Mojekwu, Max Lipchitz, Ramona Edith Williams and Jim True-Frost.

One of the comparisons that quickly comes to mind with this film is Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child not simply because it involves abortion but because it’s frank, honest cinema about what it’s like to be a woman and the importance of women’s health, both physically and mentally. There’s a palpable awkwardness to it and it doesn’t shy from how messy and chaotic life can be. It’s actively open to showing that Bridget (O’Sullivan) is a flawed character, she can be selfish, ungrateful and clumsy but there’s a charm to that sincerity. It’s those qualities of the writing that so accurately portray a woman’s experience, with all of them pointing to the fact that it was written by a woman, as there would be no other way to get that frank authenticity.

The way that it deals with women’s health is refreshingly honest, being a woman can be horrible and uncomfortable at times and this film isn’t afraid to show that. It also showcases the importance of being active about your health, getting help when you need it and taking steps to protect yourself, particularly the latter as Bridget is a key example of a woman being complacent about sexual health. It also dives into post-partum depression with a realistic portrayal of motherhood and explores how having emotional support and open communication is vital both to their mental health and a healthy relationship. It really presents a variety of women’s issues which not a lot of films do, especially not with this sort of sincerity. However, as a whole the writing isn’t inherently emotional, that frank nature does feel as though it prevents it from reaching a deeper connection but it’s sweet and funny and it saves its biggest emotional punch for a teary ending moment.

Thompson’s direction keeps its feet firmly on the ground but it also evolves as time goes on and Bridget’s friendship with Frances develops, the camera movement becomes softer and more playful in their time together. O’Sullivan’s performance is great, it’s blunt and awkward, she really brings a strongly relatable feel to Bridget, especially in her struggle with trying to fit societal norms of jobs, money and marriage. Williams is incredible as Frances, it’s such an impressive performance from someone her age, she has an extremely unique personality and temperament, it’s touching, funny and forceful. Alvarez and Mojekwu definitely bring through a lot of the emotional elements to the film, it may not be the main focus but they’ve done a great job of giving it the necessary time to feel involved rather than simply secondary and they both give moving performances.

Saint Frances is frank, messy, funny and sweet, it brings such a tangible authenticity to its story and its characters, it’s hugely relatable. O’Sullivan and Williams create a charming friendship that’s a bumpy but satisfying road, the entire cast give great performances and keep that sincere tone going strong throughout. It will likely connect strongest with women and mothers through its utterly realistic portrayal of women’s health and motherhood but there’s still something for everyone. It doesn’t hit hard but it’s honest and entertaining.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½

Available on Digital from 13th November

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