Drama films

Review of Saint Frances – ironic, tender and anti-taboo drama | Drama movies

Rwatching Eliza Hittman’s powerfully understated drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always in this article recently, I noted that by tackling the pressing subject of reproductive rights through the prism of a coming-of-age story with road-movie inflections, Hittman’s film avoided sounding polemical.

So does this terrific (and very different) feature from writer and star Kelly O’Sullivan, a vibrant and emotionally engaging tale that dresses his subversive manifesto of self-determination in the garb of bittersweet comedy. on quarantine disappointment.

Laugh and cry my way through Saint Francoise (deserving winner of several major festival audience awards), I remembered the outraged reactions that greeted Gillian Robespierre’s comedy in 2014 Obvious child, with a conservative critic who criticizes: “If America laughs at this, America is irredeemable. Yet, by refusing to accept the taboo status granted to such mundane subjects as menstruation, birth control, abortion and postnatal depression, O’Sullivan brilliantly injects a radical element into this ironic and tender portrait of an anxious single woman who oscillates between jobs, relationships and an uncertain life. Goals.

We first meet O’Sullivan’s Bridget at a party, listening in horror and bewilderment to a middle-aged man’s indulgent nightmares of failure, interrupted by his own tongue-in-cheek declaration that she’s a 34-year-old waitress – or, as she puts it, “a waiter.” After meeting young Jace (Max Lipchitz), Bridget finds herself dealing with an unwanted pregnancy around the same time fate conspires to offer her a new job as nanny for six-year-old Frances (Ramona Edith Williams, channeling the precocity without way the energy of The Florida Projectby Brooklynn Kimberly Prince).

Overwhelmed by the arrival of their new baby, affluent lesbian couple Maya (Charin Alvarez) and Annie (Lily Mojekwu) hire Bridget for babysitting during the summer season, despite the fact that she is clearly not prepared for parenthood – surrogate or otherwise. Will her avowed phobia of children (“You must really like children”; “I don’t”) keep her from doing the job? And what will his employers, one of whom is deeply religious, think of his own decision to fire?

Directed with loose intimacy by O’Sullivan’s real-life partner Alex Thompson, Saint Francoise (the title implies healing, but also nods to a wonderfully playful confession scene) benefits from Nate Hurtsellers’ freehand cinematography, capturing these characters with empathetic directness. Whether it’s the discovery of menstrual blood on the sheets after a night of energetic lovemaking with Jace, or a long-term exchange between Bridget and Frances on a suburban street, we feel like listen to real encounters, in all their richness. .

Sometimes we have a hearty laugh at life’s absurdities—a scene in which Bridget taunts Frances by bumping her stroller, only to have the child squeal in delight (“Encore!”), is a smile-inducing treat. Elsewhere, there’s a beautifully sardonic side to the comedy, typified by Jim True-Frost’s atrocious guitarist-guru Isaac, who thinks his musical compositions are divinely inspired and sees birth control as a woman’s job. .

What’s most impressive, however, is the extent to which the incidental details of this candid and fiery film ring true. Like Michaela Coel’s remarkable BBC TV series I can destroy you, Saint Francoise expands the portrayal of women’s lives on screen in such a casual way that you barely notice what’s going on. Indeed, when Bridget finally gets to say exactly what she thinks about the events that define this drama, her words (which amount to a mission statement) are framed in a disposable comedic device that undermines her honesty with a hilarious, dry punchline. . It’s just one example of the delicate balance that this wonderfully sweet film strikes perfectly.