It’s so difficult to pour part of yourself into your art without it becoming overly sentimental, or self indulgent, or embarrassing. As Rivers Cuomo of Weezer once remarked about the traumatic experience of releasing their originally maligned second album Pinkerton:
‘It’s a hideous record… It was such a hugely painful mistake that happened in front of hundreds of thousands of people and continues to happen on a grander and grander scale and just won’t go away. It’s like getting really drunk at a party and spilling your guts in front of everyone and feeling incredibly great and cathartic about it, and then waking up the next morning and realising what a complete fool you made of yourself‘.
Nobody wants to put something out into the world and then wake up the next day feeling like this, and it is this fear that prohibits so many people from creating something. Self doubt sits on all of our shoulders, and only a select few can cast it aside. That is why, when you watch a film that is clearly as personal as Saint Frances, and it turns out to be brilliant, it feels like a little win for everyone…
Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan – acting from her own script) is struggling. At 34 she has missed all the major milestones that society has deemed necessary and instead finds herself working in a diner and having one night stands with people ten years her junior. When married couple Maya (Charin Alvarez) and Annie (Lily Mojekwu) offer Bridget a job working as a nanny for their child Frances (Ramona Edith Williams), she starts to view life in a different way.
Every moment of Alex Thompson’s indie triumph is engaging and relatable. No character here is remarkable on paper, in the same way that most people walking around in the street aren’t remarkable either. What Saint Frances illustrates is that this doesn’t matter. Unremarkable people can do remarkable things. And now I’ve said remarkable so many times it’s beginning to lose all meaning…
O’Sullivan – imbued with the fire of her own personal experiences – is a revelation here. If there was any justice we should have been talking Oscar nominations and universal acclaim. She is matched by everyone else however, from the unspoken tension inherent in the performances of Alvarez and Mojekwu, to the astonishing turn from young actress Ramona Williams – surely one to watch from the future.
Saint Frances is just a lovely film. That sweet spot of happiness tinged with sadness and an excitement for the future. I only get to say this about 5 or 6 films a year, but when I do, it means something: this is the kind of film that literally everyone will enjoy. And it’s on Netflix. No excuse not to watch it.