Chicago Critics Film Festival 2019: Saint Frances
By Andrea Thompson
“Saint Frances” is the kind of interesting film that heralds a promising beginning, hopefully with the added experience that will allow a story to come into its own a little more. “Saint Frances” isn't a bad film by any means, it just takes a bit too many detours on its journey.
As it begins, Bridget (Kelly O'Sullivan, who also wrote) is having some difficulties. She's 34 and still waiting tables, and while she does meet a nice, younger guy who she shares real chemistry with, she ends up getting pregnant by him and having an abortion. Shortly after that intense experience, she gets a job as a nanny to six-year-old Frances (Ramona Edith-Williams), forcing her to confront some issues, both the ones she's avoided facing and the tension between Frances's two mothers.
What the movie does well is honestly depicting the struggles and messiness in women's lives. It's just sometimes that mess doesn't come across so well. Bridget's choices, particularly in regards to the relationships she chooses to pursue, are also baffling. Choosing the bad guy over the nice one is par for the course for movies about flawed women, but usually you can see the appeal of the bad guy, or at least the reasoning behind it. “Saint Frances” also seems bizarrely intent on punishing Bridget as much as it sympathizes with her, especially as she slowly and haphazardly bonds with Frances. All that said, O'Sullivan shows incredible promise in not only slowly building her characters, but humanizing them. Here's hoping we see more of her.