Review: Saint Frances

Written by and starring Kelly O’Sullivan Saint Frances is a small dark comedy that centers on the expectations women live with and one young woman’s choices. Bridget (O’Sullivan) is in her 30s and constantly reminded that everyone around her is having kids, succeeding in their careers, and generally being a better grown-up than she is. She’s a server in a restaurant, even though she was a rising star at Northwestern before she dropped out. But things start looking better when she lands a summer job as a nanny to Frances (aka Frannie), a six-year-old in the upper middle class Chicago suburbs whose Moms are expecting another baby.

Just before she starts the nanny gig, she meet a nice guy at a party who is also a server, so he’s not too judgemental, and they have a fling and she gets preggers and with zero drama has an abortion. Not a biggie. But that choice comes back to her with reminders as she continues to bleed at inconvenient times. There’s a lot of blood in the film, but it normalizes what happens with women’s bodies. You don’t really see a whole lot of films where women have their periods or talk about it with their boyfriends or bleed through their clothes. And while the film approaches abortion straight on, it’s clear that Bridget isn’t traumatized or regretful. It’s just something that happened along her way.

As for the saintly Frances, she and Bridget do not immediately warm to one another. And Bridget’s relationship with the Moms has a lot of bumps. One mom is suffering from postpartum depression. The other feels like their relationship is falling apart. And Frances is dealing with it all just like a six-year-old does, resisting the nanny’s intrusion, then asking about divorce, but finally trusting and liking Bridget. And by the end of the summer all four of them have learned to care about each other.

What makes the film work is a great script, very funny, very astute, gently blowing up a string of taboos as it goes. Nothing about it is predictable, except that they will somehow all get through it. O’Sullivan’s Bridget has a tough shell over her kind center. And Ramona Edith Williams is perfect as Frances, not the cloyingly cute kid, but one with dimensions. Saint Francis is bursting with empathy and has a great feminist heart.  It’s a millennial’s comedy, but one everyone will enjoy.

It’s streaming on all the services now.

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