The obvious comparison to make with “Saint Frances,” a new dramedy from writer and star Kelly O’Sullivan now playing on iTunes Canada and on-demand, is Amy Schumer’s 2015 comedy “Trainwreck.” Both are about women in their thirties at a crossroad in life but where “Trainwreck” went for laughs, “Saint Frances” goes for the heart.
O’Sullivan plays Bridget, a thirty-four-year-old self-described agnostic feminist who quits a job as a waiter to become a nanny for the precocious and often outspoken Franny (Ramona Edith Williams). She’s unsuited for the job but when Franny’s previous nanny makes a quick exit the little girl’s parents, Maya and Annie (Charin Alvarez and Lily Mojekwu), hire Bridget because they can’t find anyone else to take the job.
At the same time Bridget starts seeing Jace (Max Lipchitz), a sweet guy who accepts her when she says, “this isn’t a relationship, we’re just hooking up.” When she becomes pregnant and has an abortion Jace has deeper feelings about it than she does. Even when she finds herself bleeding for weeks afterward, she is casual. “It’s fine,” she says. “I’m just really tired and weak all the time.”
As her friendship with Franny, Maya and Annie blossoms, so does the way Bridget looks at life.
“Saint Frances” is forthright, frank and heartfelt in the manner in which it explores issues women face day to day. Writer and star O’Sullivan creates an emotional roadmap for Bridget as she navigates a new phase in her life. By times laugh out loud funny, by times touching and raunchy, it never fails to feel grounded in reality.
O’Sullivan is a find. In a nimble, break out performance she portrays Bridget in all her messy glory. She doesn’t have an epiphany moment, just a series of events that lead her down a different path. O’Sullivan is natural, believable and can deliver both comedy and drama.
“Saint Frances” is a smart movie about empowerment, that doesn’t feel like a message movie. It carefully studies life’s most constant aspect, change.