Saint Frances review: a film well worth seeking out

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Out now in the UK is Saint Frances, a terrific drama starring Kelly O’Sullivan, playing a woman who becomes pregnant and faces some key choices.

We’d love to think we’ve got life sorted. We’re adults, after all, and it’s the face we long to present to the world. Yet the truth behind that image is rather different – flaws, weaknesses, even a demon or two – and it’s that reality that comes endearingly to the fore in Saint Frances.

Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) is 34. She doesn’t know what she wants from life, but she doesn’t want a baby – not yet, anyway. So when she finds she’s accidentally pregnant by her casual boyfriend, there’s only one course of action. At the same time, she quits waitressing to look after the serious-minded six-year-old Frances (Ramona Edith-Williams), whose mothers have their hands full after the arrival of their baby boy. The little girl makes her newbie nanny work hard, but also steers her towards recognising some truths about herself and the choices she’s made so far in life.

Seemingly surrounded by people having babies, the last thing Bridget wants to be is a “bare boobed, perpetually crying milk machine”, even though she’s reminded that she’s only a year left before a pregnancy would be described as “geriatric”. Her termination could so easily have been the focus of the narrative, but instead it’s another decision that she takes – perhaps too lightly – which turns out to be the trigger for the film’s core theme. She completely underestimates the impact the procedure will have on her, both emotionally and physically, and finds herself coping with an aftermath she never envisaged. O’Sullivan’s script plays for acute and uncomfortable laughs, extracting them from something so much a part of everyday life but that’s so rarely depicted on screen.

Saint Frances is about the images we present to the outside world, whether it’s one of femininity or one of being in control – Frances’ mothers, ironically, turn out to be floundering even more than Bridget – and the film takes a delight in turning both on their heads. More importantly, it lets its central character work things out, rather than taking a didactic approach. It’s refreshing, challenging and gives a push to conversational doors that, hitherto, have been just ajar.

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