Friday, April 10, 2020

Saint Frances

One of the peculiar things about virtual screening rooms like those being run by The Coolidge Corner Theatre and others is that they wind up being pages full of links to other services even if, logically, it seems like they should have some sort of common interface and login. So far, I've loaded Vimeo and KinoNow apps onto my Roku, found that there is just enough space in my living room for the laptop to be connected to its usual electrical outlet on one side and the HDMI-4 port of my receiver on the other, and, most bizarrely, had to register to watch this movie. Why make me create an account that looks like it won't ever be used again? What good does having one more password attached to my email address do you guys?

It seems like a while since I've seen a movie like this; I don't know if this variety of independent film is as choked out as it sometimes seems to be, but it seems like the festivals that used to be where these things get found wind up promoting films with better-known casts or redirecting the likes of this to Netflix and they just don't hit theaters. That we're probably not going to have an Independent Film Festival Boston this year (or until later in the year at best) is probably going to mean I see even fewer of them, unless others break into the virtual rooms.

On the other hand, there are times when I don't miss it. About ten minutes into Saint Frances, there's a too-earnest, too-well-matched song on the soundtrack and I briefly found myself worrying that this was going to be one of THOSE movies where the filmmakers really want you to learn about the bands they like, but it's just a passing thing that doesn't happen again, rather than one of those cases where 35 songs are listed for a 90-minute movie.

Saint Frances

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 8 April 2020 in Jay's Living Room (Coolidge Corner Theatre Virtual Screening Room, internet)

I suspect that the weird way films are being released as people shelter in place this spring has been, if not good, then at least an opportunity for movies like Saint Frances. Theaters that had a hard time finding screens and showtimes for them can instead put them in a "virtual screening room", which has all the convenience of an online rental but the curation of an actual cinema, which is the sort of thing a decent film of this one's scale needs to thrive. It's easily overlooked in most seasons but worth checking out now that it's got a little space to work in.

It follows Bridget (Kelly O'Sullivan), a 34-year-old woman working as a waitress who can't help but feel everyone else her age (and younger) has done much more than she has. A friend recommends her to Maya (Charin Alvarez) and her wife Annie (Lily Mojekwu) for a job, but she's not called back until their first choice quits and Maya is feeling overwhelmed between the new baby and five-year-old Frances (Ramona Edith-Williams). Frannie is somewhat slow to warm to the new nanny, and the thing she's started with nice but equally-stalled Jace (Max Lipchitz) has been made more complicated by a positive pregnancy test, though he's at least very helpful when the abortion procedure leaves Bridget in rougher physical shape than she was expecting.

As the back half of Saint Frances chugs along, I can't help but think the way Bridget is almost constantly bleeding in the wake of her abortion is a striking-at-the-very-least metaphor I've never seen before, then wonder if that's just because I'm a man and women use it among themselves all the time, then recall that it's spelled out right in the movie that women would probably be better off talking about this sort of thing more. It is an impressive balancing act in how it instantly reads as both instantly alarming and easily taken for granted, both simply what it physically is and a clear reflection of what's going on in Bridget's head without stretching too far.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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