by Hope Madden
Candid. Messy. Bloody, even. There are a number of adjectives you could use to describe Saint Francis, an indie dramedy from director Alex Thompson and writer/star Kelly O’Sullivan. Precious is not one of them.
That fact in itself is maybe victory enough given that the film concerns a lost, underachieving millennial (“I’m on the cusp!”) who finds her way with the help of the 5-year-old (Ramona Edith Williams, unreasonably cute) she nannies over the summer.
That could have been a recipe for precocious, heartstring-tugging disaster. I can say without reservation that Saint Frances is not that. There’s definitely too much menstrual blood and abortion humor, first of all.
For the bulk of the film, Bridget (O’Sullivan) is a terrible person, a selfish fuck up, which makes Saint Frances groundbreaking in its own way. It’s so uncommon, the Peter Pan effect as embodied by a female. They always make us Wendys.
O’Sullivan’s version is never the uproarious riot of Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, or the introspective yet raucous Obvious Child. And while comparisons to those two crowd pleasing genre busters are clear, Saint Frances really is its own beast—one that abandons formula in favor of often unpleasant reality and a sometimes delightful mean streak.
O’Sullivan—both as writer and as lead—brings a kind of deadpan wisdom to the already well-worn idea of directionless adult forced to face adulthood by a spunky youngster. Part of the film’s glory is its very untidiness, both structural and visual.
Thompson, showing solid instincts with his feature debut, does cave once or twice to overt convention (let’s call it “the juice box montage”), and the unstoppably supportive Jace (Max Lipchitz) is less a character than he is a vehicle for growth.
Still, for raw, sloppy honesty, you’re not likely to find a better candidate.