A small but special film that examines so much of what goes to make up human – particularly female – life shown with warmth and some great taboo-busting.
You wait, well, all your life for a film or TV show that mentions period sex and then, guess what, two come along at once. First, Michaela Coel’s searing television series I May Destroy You literally examines a blood clot, then Saint Frances shows us a bed and, yes, faces covered in blood. People who menstruate (yes, I will say that, JKR, because it is valid), we are seen and the taboos are being busted.
But Saint Frances is about much, much more than this – it is just an early indicator that this is a film that is real, messy (literally and metaphorically) and will show its characters with their charms and flaws, their reality – and relatability.
Written by Kelly O’Sullivan and directed by her partner, Alex Thompson, the film follows 34-year-old waitress Bridget (played by O’Sullivan in a gloriously down-to-earth performance) who is rootless and directionless and feeling judged by those around her. She hooks up with co-worker Jace, who is eight years younger than her, but isn’t emotionally or intellectually invested in anything much.
Through a friend’s recommendation and a certain amount of happenstance, she ends up looking after the titular Frances, whose mother has just had a baby and is struggling with post-natal depression. Frances is a precocious six-year-old; Bridget doesn’t really like children and is nobody’s choice of the perfect nanny. But the duo develop a sweet bond, each bringing some lovely benefits to the other’s life.
Meanwhile Frances’s two moms are going through difficulties – will Bridget add to their stresses as they try to sort their little family or will she help them work through the problems?
Not a lot happens in this gentle film, and yet all of life does. As well as the aforementioned period sex and post-natal depression, and the way the film unsensationally centres a non-white same-sex parenting duo, there is also a matter-of-fact approach to abortion. (There are also discussions about Black Lives Matter and what type of sanitary product you might use – really, this film has it all!) And along the way, we get a chance to reflect on life, love, settling down, creativity, how to rear children, friendship and kindness.