Saint Frances is equal parts a sweet, sentimental film and a harsh reality check. The premise of 34-year-old Bridget, a woman recovering from an abortion and taking a nanny job to watch six-year-old Frances, gives a lot of laughs and a few whimpers while trying to contain tears. Bridget is aimless, rude and crass, not having much going for her. When seeing her interact and grow with Frances, it becomes easier to care for both characters as they come to bring out the best in each other. Their relationship keeps the movie from delving too far into a dark and depressing drama. But Saint Frances does test the waters.
Bridget’s abortion is no light matter for her or anyone else involved. She’s scared and disheartened by the entire situation, but she knows it’s what’s best for her. Her struggle with her decision due to her own feelings and different forces from the environment around her — and the support she gets from Frances’ parents and her partner Jace — does a great job of showing the viewer that while abortion is an excruciatingly emotional time to go through, it’s essential for women to have support. Frances’ parents, Maya and Annie, have a story that goes beyond Frances, dealing with their relationship and their newborn. Maya’s postpartum depression and feelings of inadequacy when dealing with their baby makes her go beyond just being Bridget’s boss. When it becomes clear that Maya needs a friend and Bridget finally feels more of a purpose, it is a powerful dynamic to see. Annie’s issue of constantly having to be away from home and missing their family grow, leads to one of the best performance cries in recent cinema, is extremely relatable and heartbreaking. The way Saint Frances deals with all of its characters is very mature and careful — not playing it safe but not offending anyone.
Another aspect of the film that is worth noting is the portrayal of male emotion. While it initially seems like Saint Frances is going down the “men are self-centered pigs” route, it shines a light of how an issue like abortion can affect the male partner. While Jace does try to make it about himself a bit at one point, he quickly turns around and makes sure to focus on Bridget’s needs and feelings. What Saint Frances does well is noting that men can have feelings about abortion while making it clear that the women going through the process take the full force of the physical and emotional impact. Every other man in the film is either laughable or a complete jerk, sometimes both.
Saint Frances is a rare film that can create a conversation about a heavily debated and controversial topic and make someone feel more at ease about talking about it. The film is creative, intelligent and an original take on an important topic.