Review: ‘Saint Frances’ is an honest look at adulthood

The myth of the adult having their lives together is a pervasive one. We all create personas for ourselves and project outwardly that we are in control, that we have goals and a life we love, and most importantly: that we’re ok. Of course, many of aren’t ok. Maybe even most of us.

Saint Frances, the story of an aimless thirty-something who takes a summer job as a nanny, is a story about how people don’t have their shit together and might be one of the most honest films I’ve seen in ages.

Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) is a 34-year-old who works as a server in a restaurant. Her contemporaries seem to be settling into lives around her. Good jobs, partners, jobs while life seems to be passing her by.

Desperate for a change she applies for a job nannying a young girl, Frances (Ramona Edith Williams). Frances’s mothers have to go back to work and handle Frances newborn baby brother, respectively. Some of the setup you will have seen before: Bridget isn’t good with kids, but Frances warms her heart, and the relationship helps Bridget grow up just a little.

What sets the film apart is that it dives headfirst into an honest portrayal of each of these characters lives. Bridget has an abortion in the first act of the film and spends the rest of the film putting off reconciling her feelings about it, and shutting down the younger man she is a non-relationship with. Frances mothers –one stuck working long hours and the other going through some serious postpartum depression– start to disconnect.

The way all this is portrayed is refreshing and messy, as honest portrayals tend to be. There’s nothing easy about life, and there are a few things we could all do to make it easier that we just… don’t. It’s only when Bridget opens up to Frances that she’ll be able to open up to others and make things a little easier.

The breakout talent here is Kelly O’Sullivan who not only knocks it out of the park playing Bridget but wrote the screenplay as well. This is someone who I’m shocked we haven’t seen more of already. Similarly, while she’s only a child, Ramona Edith Williams steals every scene she’s in, delivering complex dialogue thoughtfully and with real emotion.

Kelly O’Sullivan and Romona Edith Williams

Saint Frances was a festival darling last year, having won both an Audience Award and Special Jury Prize at SXSW among others, and it’s easy to see why. A simple story told honestly about complex people, that addresses the real truth that probably none of us actually have our shit together, is a powerful thing.

Saint Frances will premiere here in British Columbia on VIFF Connect on Friday, November 6th and then nationwide on video on demand platforms on Friday, November 13th