SXSW 2019: Saint Frances

Kelly O’Sullivan and Ramona Edith-Williams in Saint Frances.

With charming performances, Saint Frances is a small little indie film from Chicago that manages to tackle some serious issues.

Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) starts out her summer by getting an abortion.  She does not feel any guilt about it.  If she does, she choose not to talk about it.  The film depicts her abortion in a way that we really don’t see in other films.  Yeah, it’s a really big decision but one that doesn’t need to be drawn out through the entire film.  The fact that it happens early on means that we turn our focus to how Bridget recovers and moves on.

Shortly after the surgical procedure, Bridget starts working as a nanny for Frances (Ramona Edith-Williams).  Frances doesn’t make it easy on Bridget.  Meanwhile, her recovery takes longer than expected.  Other films and TV shows don’t really show the side effects that come with an abortion.  Saint Frances does not pull back at all.  While she isn’t a fan of Bridget at first, the duo go on a journey together.  Where Bridget starts out struggling with Frances, things become tense between Frances’ parents, Annie (Lily Mojekwu) and Maya (Charin Alvarez), following the birth of their newborn son.  Maya is dealing with post-partum depression while Annie works all day.

Bridget may be at their house just about every single day but at the end of the day, she’s not a member of the family.  This isn’t to say that there aren’t moments that can draw some strong emotions.  During one such outing, Bridget defends Maya’s choice for breastfeeding in public.  This comes as a nearby mom finds the whole ordeal to be uncomfortable.

Kelly O’Sullivan’s script is very personal and draws on real-life experiences.  The writer-actress was a nanny in her 20s while undergoing an abortion in her 30s.  Films like these are the ones in which everyone can relate.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film dealing with an abortion in this way before.  Moreover, the film doesn’t even make a big deal of Annie and Maya being lesbians.  Even as close as a few years ago, something like this could be seen as a big deal.  It’s just normal and this is honestly how it should be.  Both Kelly O’Sullivan and director Alex Thompson have put their heart and soul into Saint Frances.  Their efforts manage to show on screen.

This Chicago-set feature was a hit with audiences in Austin and took home the Audience Award among the films competing in the Narrative Feature Competition.

DIRECTOR:  Alex Thompson
SCREENWRITER:  Kelly O’Sullivan
CAST:  Kelly O’Sullivan, Ramona Edith-Williams, Jim True-Frost, Francis Guinan, Lily Mojekwu, Mary Beth Fisher, Charin Alvarez

Saint Frances holds its world premiere during the 2019 SXSW Film Festival in the Narrative Feature Competition. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.