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‘Saint Frances’ Review: Dir. Alex Thompson (2020)

by Kat Hughes

Not to be confused with Saint Maude the upcoming horror movie from Studiocanal, Saint Frances is a rather charming dramedy directed by Alex Thompson, and written by and starring Kelly O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan stars as Bridget, a thirty-four-year-old nobody. Whilst all her friends from high-school have gone on to be either super successful, married with children, or a combination of the two, she feels a lot like she’s failing at life. Wanting out of her job as a server she manages to snag herself a job as a nanny to six-year-old Frances (Ramona Edith Williams), despite having neither the qualifications nor the maternal instincts for the position. At the same time, she strikes up a relationship with a younger man, which leads to an accidental pregnancy-turned-abortion. The combination of her job and her own brush with potential motherhood causes Bridget to reassess exactly where her life is going, and she finds an unlikely spirit guide within the care-free child in her charge.

O’Sullivan’s script is wonderfully insightful, mature, respective, and above all else, honest in its portrayal of female life. This is likely thanks in part to her having poured actual elements of her own life experiences into the story. For instance, in her twenties, she worked as a nanny, which has clearly given her plenty of funny babysitting anecdotes to stick on the screen. Rather than portray themes in the typical Hollywood fashion of being overly dramatic, traumatic or scary, she instead opts to reflect her own experience. It’s handled in a way that feels honest, and demonstrates that it is okay to not feel ready, or the desire to become a mother. It shatters the typical ingrained on-screen representation and strengthens the film early on. A further aspect that showcases O’Sullivan’s need to be frank and honest about her life as a female is in the recurring feature of Bridget’s menstrual cycle. It’s something that a high percentage of the female population has to contend with month in, month out, and yet you can probably count on your fingers how many times it’s been presented on screen. This number is even less when you remove films that are either set within the horror genre (Carrie, Ginger Snaps) or are comedy films that poke fun at it (Superbad). Here it’s presented as an everyday occurrence, one that isn’t to be laughed at or vilified but just accepted as part of the messy world of a female. It might not be to everybody’s taste, and there will likely be some men that get a little squeamish about the continual feature of menstrual blood, but for those that have to deal with it on a monthly rotation, it’s refreshing to finally see it portrayed as what it is – a completely normal thing.

Saint Frances also tackles themes and issues around gender, sexuality, depression (in all its guises), and even breastfeeding in public, but manages to never come off as being too preachy. It’s not a movie that is trying to convert you to the opinions of its makers, but rather gives the viewer an opportunity to explore some of them within the safe confines of a cinematic world. The most startling revelation about the film, which is heavily female in tone and content, is that it’s actually directed by a man. In real-life, Thompson and O’Sullivan are partners and their intimacy shines through in the film in the delicate manner in which he respectfully handles everything that her script throws at him.

Given her closeness to the source material, O’Sullivan is of course the perfect choice to play Bridget, and her pairing with the young Williams is a stroke of pure genius. The film springs to life whenever it’s just Bridget and Frances on screen, and their easy demeanour with one another is one that mothers everywhere dream of having. It’s not all glitter and sunshine for the pair though, with O’Sullivan’s script not veering away from how tough children can be to look after. Frances tests boundaries with Bridget constantly, leading Bridget, like every first-time parent, scrambling to form a counter attack. The back and forth between them leads to some really touching moments, and you’ll likely shed a tear or ten before the film is over.

A refreshingly honest portrayal of the trial and tribulations of modern women, Saint Frances is simply a revelation. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you may even learn a thing or two about yourself whilst watching, but one thing’s for sure, you’ll leave with a smile on your face.

Saint Frances arrives in cinemas across the UK on Friday 24th July 2020.

Saint Frances

Kat Hughes



A film that isn’t afraid to get messy, Saint Frances is a refreshingly honest portrayal of the roller-coaster of life.


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