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Review: Saint Francis (2020)

Saint Francis (2020)

Directed by: Alex Thompson

Premise: Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) is in early middle age and frustrated with her lack of accomplishments. Shortly after taking an oral abortifacient, Bridget is hired to nanny a spunky six year old girl (Ramona Edith Williams) and copes with the medical aftereffects of the pill.

What Works: Saint Francis is a story of middle aged ennui. This kind of story is familiar in the work of Judd Apatow but in his films the protagonist is usually a young man who must put away juvenile interests. Saint Francis is similar to Apatow’s films in its sense of humor and good heartedness but this film focuses on a female protagonist and nearly the entire cast consists of women. Bridget is a thirty-four year old who is dissatisfied with her life but she doesn’t know what to do about it. After a sexual encounter with a man who is not quite her boyfriend, Bridget terminates the pregnancy with oral contraception but suffers continued side effects. Desperate for steady income, Bridget takes a job as a nanny for an upper class lesbian couple. She manages the daily routine of Francis, the couple’s six year old daughter, while one of the married women nurses a newborn baby. The film effectively addresses Bridget’s frustrations, catching nonverbal reactions and framing characters in a way that visualizes power dynamics and internal conflicts. This is also very much a millennial generation film; it’s about a woman whose personal and professional life has stalled. The filmmakers underplay the right elements, especially the relationship between Bridget and Francis. Typically in movies like this the child is precocious and teaches life lessons to the adult. Francis is sassy and smart but she remains a kid and the lessons Bridget learns derive from being accountable for her responsibilities but also defining herself by recognizing the way her values diverge from those of her employers. The lessons and friendships that emerge from this story are heartwarming but not in a saccharine or pandering way.

What Doesn’t: Saint Francis is a story that is told from a very progressive point of view. The filmmakers do not fall over themselves to make those progressive values and ideas palatable to viewers who do not share that perspective. This is fine. The moviemakers present the characters and their choices and it is up to us to figure out how we feel about them but some aspects of Saint Francis, namely its nonchalant approach to abortion, are probably going to inherently limit the movie’s appeal to more conservative viewers.

DVD extras: Commentary track, deleted and extended scenes, blooper reel, and a trailer.

Bottom Line: Saint Francis is a satisfying story of a woman coming to terms with her choices and responsibilities. It’s an enjoyable movie that delivers a feel good story without getting unnecessarily sentimental.

Episode: #811 (August 2, 2020)