We’ve all seen a movie that pairs an uncomfortable adult with a precocious child, and usually the humour stems from their awkwardness that develops into an endearing dynamic as their chemistry develops. Saint Frances is no different, and about halfway through the movie I thought I had Alex Thompson’s film figured out. Little did I know that the film was quietly providing the groundwork for inspiring feministic themes that would elevate the material above its formula.
Kelly O’Sullivan (who wrote the film’s sharp screenplay) stars as Bridget, someone who’s growing more frustrated with how aimless her life is panning out to be. She secures a gig as a nanny looking after a clever kid named Frances (Ramona Edith-Williams) despite not having any passion for the job or children in general. Bridget hits a complicated (baby) bump, however, when she decides to have an abortion after an unexpected pregnancy, and still has to maintain her psychological composure around seeing Frances every day.
The film is clearly pro-choice but doesn’t feel the need to have a big debate about it, which is completely fine because that debate isn’t what Saint Frances is about. The filmmaker supports the decision of the character, and uses the choice as what drives Bridget’s emotional core. O’Sullivan wisely interprets the role in a tired and cynical sort of way to reflect Bridget’s personal disappointment and the exhaustion she feels when she observes another young couple with a newborn. This allows O’Sullivan to climb a convincing arc that allows her to open up to former strangers like Frances and the child’s moms.
The third act of Saint Frances evolves beautifully into subtle yet empowering discussions involving women not feeling ashamed about emotions they’ve been hiding or choices that they’ve made. These character-driven moments not only leave the film on an encouraging high for satisfied movie goers, but they rank as some of the best scenes of the year.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie