Saint Frances follows Bridget, floundering in her thirties as she takes a summer job as nanny to Frances, whose parents are preparing for the imminent birth of a second child.
Let me start by saying what a joyous and wonderful film this is. It was a pure pleasure to watch and just a brilliantly crafted production.
One of the opening scenes of the film revolves around Bridget’s menstrual blood which is our first sign that this film isn’t going to be a sunny sanitised version of life. Screenwriter Kelly O’Sullivan threads so many different elements of modern life throughout the film – the terror of children to the childless, the very real and complex decisions involved in abortions, the impact postpartum depression can have on a whole family and the role in which religion and guilt play in people’s lives. It’s a beautifully detailed film and whilst it may sound like it’s just running through and ticking boxes, every element feels grounded and important, showing us stories we don’t see enough of.
Directed by Alex Thompson in his feature-length debut, it flows naturally and feels like we are in the hands of a seasoned professional. In the lead role of Bridget is screenwriter O’Sullivan, so it’s easy to see how she brings such life to Bridget having crafted the character herself. Thompson and O’Sullivan aren’t afraid to hold back and at times Bridget seems hateful. She’s a terrible nanny, a mean girlfriend and desperately needs direction. But she’s also caring and observant and as her relationship with young Frances grows, so does she. Ramona Edith Williams is astounding as Frances, one of the best child actors I’ve seen this year and reminiscent of the natural ease that we saw from Brooklynn Prince in The Florida Project. Initially an irritating spoilt brat, we see her blossom as she spends more time with Bridget and along with Bridget, we grow to truly love and care about this young girl.
Set over summer, the locations are lovely, the music wistful, and the entire ambience calming. There are tense moments as Frances’ mothers fight, struggle with postpartum, struggle to trust in Bridget and just struggle as does Bridget herself who goes through an abortion in the films first act. She spends much of the film working through the complex emotional and physical ramifications this has, both personally and within her new relationship. All whilst being fully absorbed in the world of childcaring. There is one particular stand out scene in the films latter half involving a hateful and homophobic altercation between a picnic goer and Frances’ mother Maya that was so well done that I found myself uttering an expletive I reserve solely for road rage out loud, I was so enraged for these women I had bonded with in the films short runtime.
It’s hard to not gush over the film, as I didn’t know how much I needed a film like this until I was watching it. Long live stories of real women, of flawed creatures, of the mothers who have to wear diapers and the women who bleed too much. I will worship at the feet of Saint Frances happily.
Saint Frances is available on digital platforms from 13th November
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