Kelly O’Sullivan stars in a family drama that is subtly subversive, pushing a gentle envelope with warmth and humor. Though it is somewhat melodramatic, “Saint Frances” is boosted by fine performances, particularly from writer O’Sullivan and the young Ramona Edith Williams in her debut role.
Bridget (O’Sullivan) is a waitress just going through the motions. At a party she meets nice guy Jace (Max Lipchitz) and they end up in bed.
Things are awkward the next morning when they discover blood on the sheets. Jace shrugs this off and Bridget decides to keep seeing him. After all, he is a nice, if naive guy. One day Bridget is anxious and gets a pregnancy test which proves positive. She has a talk with Jace arguing against the pregnancy. He consents without resistance.
Bridget has a job as a nanny taking care of the adorable girl Frances (Ramona Edith Williams) and her baby brother. Frances has two mothers: Annie (Lily Mojewu) and Maya (Charin Alvarez).
Things get tense when little Frances persists on badgering and testing Bridget.
They often argue yet a bond forms.
At times, the situations feel a bit formulaic when Frances makes faces and becomes precocious but when the pair confronts danger by falling into a lake, there is a real exchange of chemistry.
Bridget is smitten with a new teacher (Jim True-Frost) who is a bit like Patrick Swayze except he says downright rude remarks when they are in bed.
The dependable Jace re-enters.
While the recurring sight of blood might be a sign of a horror film, here it is a harbinger for Bridget, ushering in a new perspective and an alternative way of thinking. After each incident of blood, Bridget lets her defenses down, becoming lighter with Frances and warmer to Maya and Annie.
Through her surrogate family Bridget becomes a saint of sorts, periodically marked by blood.
The film pushes further when Frances goes into an empty confessional and acts the priest as Bridget unburdens herself. Frances may joke, but the film is quite clear. Children can be a conduit to Divinity and the agency of forgiveness is not exclusive to the papacy. To the Orthodox this is subversive, yet sweetly so.
“Saint Frances” is a warm comedy drama not without its controversy. The ebullience of the film is undeniable and the beguiling performance of Williams sneakily removes any harsh judgement from Catholic concerns.
There are no stinging barbs of the stigmata here. Alex Thompson and writer Kelly O’ Sullivan leave only smiles, making their secular point of non-judgement all the more striking.
Saint Frances is available for streaming here; your ticket purchase supports the Tropic!
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org