SAINT FRANCES

DIRECTOR: ALEX THOMPSON

CAST: KELLY O'SULLIVAN, RAMONA EDITH WILLIAMS, LILY MOJEKWU, CHARIN ALVAREZ, MAX LIPCHITZ

CERTIFICATE TBC; MINUTES

USA 2019

IN CINEMAS JULY 2020

Ramona Edith Williams and Kelly O'Sullivan in Saint Frances

REVIEW by KATHLEEN BONDAR

Writer and lead, Kelly O’Sullivan, plays Bridget in this fortunately unsentimental, humorous, American indie movie. Bridget, a thirty-four-year-old, intelligent, low-achiever with a top sense of humour, packs in her waitressing job to care for six-year-old Frances (Ramona Edith Williams). Whilst Bridget navigates a hapless love life which results in a tricky abortion, Frances’ moms struggle with their new-born baby and the ensuing toll on their relationship.


O’Sullivan is wonderfully charismatic on screen without being manicured. Her observational humour is priceless. She manages to play this off-beat, witty thirty-something without force or dramatics.


O’Sullivan doesn’t compromise when it comes to addressing abortion. We follow Bridget into the clinic and witness the consequences of the medication. These scenes are actually quite funny. They are also refreshingly underwhelming. There are no ensuing wistful “yearning to be a mother” scenes.


At the same time, Bridget begins to enjoy looking after Frances. She is perfect at caring without “mothering”. The relationship between Bridget and Frances is a joy to watch as it ebbs and overflows. Both adult and child give as good as they get. Both have insight and understanding. Both develop a strong affection for the other.


Frances has an equally wry take on life coupled with the endearing innocence of childhood. Her character is cleverly observed, well directed by Alex Thompson and played to perfection by young Ramona.


The relationship between Frances’ moms Maya (Charin Alvarez) and Annie (Lily Mojekwu) is woven into Saint Frances without assumption or undue comment. It is, however, slightly less rounded, perhaps because it isn’t central. There is a lot of passive toxicity between the couple for most part of the film and then, all of a sudden, towards the end they collapse in heaps with their weighty problems.


What the relationship does effectively, is bring the everyday experience of racism and homophobia to the screen without fanfares. There is a “Black Lives Matter” banner on the family’s lawn, but it is pretty makeshift. The most poignant scene comes when Maya is rudely confronted in the playground bringing pervasive prejudice (homophobia and racism combined) into sharp focus.


O’Sullivan is a master of understated meaning and wit. Her ability to tackle difficult and yet common female experiences is commendable and, quite simply, invigorating to find on screen.

https://www.curzonhomecinema.com


@CapitalReviewer



CULTURE REVIEWS AND PODCASTS LONDON 2020

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