Saint Frances Movie Review: A Topical Gem of Less Biblical Proportions

A well-acted, thorough dramedy that avoids condescension over its subject matter.
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It seems that even in today’s society, the idea of a woman not wanting to be a parent is viewed as somewhat unholy. In Saint Frances, 34-year old Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) is stuck with the pressure of being one once she has an unexpected pregnancy. Although she wants to have an abortion, Bridget tries navigating the ups and downs of motherhood with her job as a nanny to six-year old Frances (Ramona Edith-Williams) aiding her on her self-discovery.

Initially, Bridget’s job is just a job to her. A way for her to get by as she deals with what her life has become compared to her college peers. But despite the picture not dealing with overt religious themes, the titular character does become a possible savior of sorts for Bridget. As she expresses reluctance over taking care of Frances due to her petulance, small moments like Bridget bandaging Frances’ hand signify her character arc.

Credit for such intricacies should go to screenwriter/star Kelly O’Sullivan who also grounds the picture in realism by writing the characters as if they’re real people. Everyday people who make mistakes and get back up to rebuild themselves. People like Bridget who is a character worth rooting for even if she continuously makes selfish decisions.

O’Sullivan even goes the extra mile by tackling queer parenting as the film follows the turbulent marriage between Maya (Charin Alvarez) and Lily (Lily Mojekwu), Frances’ mothers. Without politicizing their relationship, O’Sullivan’s script shows how gay couples such as them go through the typical debacles the way heterosexual couples do. Even if it’s common knowledge that gay couples go through typical marriage blues, it’s still refreshing to a married gay couple live openly on screen without a tragic storyline or, minus one scene, about them continuously dealing with bigotry.

As for O’Sullivan as an actress, she carries the picture seamlessly, bringing to life Bridget’s contradictory nature. Both her steady change of heart and indulgent behavior that tends to handicap her transition. Additionally, Ramona Edith-Williams does a fine job as the precocious Frances while both Lily Mojekwu and Charin Alvarez are naturalistic as Maya and Lily, Bridget’s willing yet ambivalent employers.

The acting and the screenplay are the heart and soul of Saint Frances, a gem that is profound and topical, yet not a topical dramedy of Biblical proportions. As it tackles taboo subjects like abortion and gay marriage, it does so in an intimate manner and is all the better for it. Rather than have a cataclysmic event cause our main character to have a change of heart, it shows how small moments can help shape one’s life perspective. Much like with life itself.

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