We first meet Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) at a party as she is struggling to feign interest while a guy discusses the nightmare he had that his life had amounted to nothing. At 34, Bridget feels as though she is living his nightmare as her once-promising track to becoming a writer has been derailed with only a gig as a waiter to support her. Bridget is a realistically depicted “on-the-cusp” millennial whose life is a bit messy and unfocused. At the initial party, Bridget goes to bed with Jace (Max Lipchitz), a 26-year-old guy who also works as a server and has the enlightened attitude you might expect from a modern day millennial. The two have awkward, endearing banter, but Bridget is not looking for anything serious in her life. Bridget is focused on landing a new gig as the nanny for a same-sex couple, Maya (Charin Alvarez) and Annie (Lily Mojekwu), who have a child on the way and a precocious six-year-old named Frances (Ramona Edith Williams). Bridget is not particularly good with children, but she is looking for a better paying job. While not their first choice, Bridget is brought on board to try to rise above her irresponsibility and take care of Frances.
Frances joins the rare roster of child characters that greatly enhance their movie. The filmmakers make excellent use of Ramona Edith Williams’ natural exuberance that completely endears you to her, even when she is initially being obstinate about warming up to Bridget. Frances is whip-smart and hilarious in her interactions with adults without ever seeming unrealistic. She has been raised by two open-minded parents that are not shy about answering questions honestly when she has them. There is a lot of parroting of big ideas she has picked up over her six years on earth that is often what Bridget needs to hear. She seldom understands why Bridget does certain things, but she develops a very moving bond with her that pulls at your heartstrings without being cloying. Frances does not “fix” Bridget because Bridget does not need fixing. What she does is help Bridget figure some things in her life out for herself.
In addition to starring in the movie, Kelly O’Sullivan also wrote a fantastic, witty screenplay that tackles a variety of touchy subjects in a straightforward and refreshing manner. While some of Bridget’s decisions may have you crawling out of your skin, the mixture of the endearing screenplay and O’Sullivan’s effortlessly great performance always leaves you wanting the best for her. When the always-dependable pull-out method fails to work, for some odd reason, Bridget gets pregnant with Jace’s baby right as her life is heading in a more positive direction. While some movies might use this as an opportunity to have Bridget bond with Frances and embrace the idea of being a mom, this is a film where characters know what they want out of their life. Bridget is not ready to be a mom, and she does not hesitate to make the best choice for her situation. The film delicately handles this as the intensely personal decision that it is which should not be judged by anyone.
While the men in this movie are mostly decent, this is a story that is not particularly interested in them. O’Sullivan is providing a showcase for women in a way that films should do way more often. All of these women are multi-faceted and have multiple issues they are struggling with at any given moment. In a refreshing turn of events, the film does not try to glamorize or gloss over any of the more uncomfortable issues. Among other things, the film tackles the issue of postpartum depression and how women often internalize their struggles because they feel like they are failing at being a mother. The way in which women support each other in this film is very moving, but the film never forgets to provide some levity as Bridget slowly gets her life together. Kelly O’Sullivan and her partner, director Alex Thompson, have created one of the most emotionally rich and truly hilarious films of the year. You do yourself a great disservice if you choose to skip this one.
Saint Frances comes to DVD with a 480p transfer that looks nice enough considering the limitations of the format and the low-budget nature of the production. Skin tones look natural and there is a decent amount of detail in the more brightly lit scenes. There is pretty consistent noise throughout that ranges from minor to pretty heavy in darker scenes. This may not completely be the fault of the transfer as it is noted in the commentary that one scene that is especially noisy is source-related and another is the product of the director picking up shots on his own. If you are going to take the jump and watch this movie, you owe it to yourself to pick up the Blu-Ray that is also available. This movie has a lot of replay value so you will want to own it in the best quality.
The DVD comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio track that sounds pretty great. The film is nearly 100 percent dialogue driven so this is not something that will give your system a workout. Dialogue is mixed well and comes through crystal clear without ever being stepped on by the score or any sound effects. The score from Quinn Tsan provides a joyous undercurrent throughout the movie that fills the surround speakers with warmth. Although there is not constant activity in the track, it presents the movie exactly as it was intended and that is really all you can ask. The disc also includes optional English SDH subtitles.
- Audio Commentary: Director Alex Thompson, Screenwriter/Star Kelly O’Sullivan and Cinematographer Nate Hurtsellers give a very informative track that reveals the scrappy nature of independent filmmaking. A lot of fun anecdotes are shared including the tidbit that O’Sullivan was the voice of Kroger checkout machines, which I desperately want to be true.
- Extended Scenes: Six scenes are presented here with either alternate lines or additional information. There are some fun line readings and even the inclusion of actors breaking within the scene.
- Deleted Scenes: Five scenes that would have slowed down the pacing of the movie but are still a lot of fun to see here. The most substantial is a scene with Bridget running into an old boyfriend while at a playground with Frances that is hilarious and cringe worthy in equal measure.
- Blooper Reel: Two minutes of bloopers are included here mostly comprised of Ramona, who plays Frances, saying random, cute kid things. The perils of camera operating also shows up at one point.
- Theatrical Trailer: The original theatrical trailer is presented here, which gives you a good sense of the unique tone of the film.
Saint Frances has the basic structure of broad appeal crowd-pleasing film executed in an independently minded manner that makes it truly essential viewing. The characters are wonderfully complex and true to life, which makes you emotionally invested even after the credits have stopped rolling. Kelly O’Sullivan is a voice you are going to want to keep an eye on, as she knocks it out of the park as a screenwriter and lead actor. Oscilloscope has provided a nice package with worthwhile extras. Do yourself a favor and check this one out sooner rather than later. Highly Recommended
Saint Frances will be available to own on Blu-Ray or DVD on June 16, 2020. The film can be purchased directly through Oscilloscope or various other online retailers.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the DVD.
Disclaimer: Oscilloscope Films has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.