Saint Frances

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Saint Frances Movie Poster Image
Edgy feminist drama removes judgment from sex, abortion.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 106 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Tries to destigmatize some of the less glamorous elements of being a woman. Shows that connections can be found in unexpected places.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Diverse, nonstereotypical characters represent a range of races, sexual identities, and classes. Jace is an understanding, present boyfriend who expresses his emotions. Bridget is meant to be more relatable than aspirational.

Violence

A character has a medicinal abortion; there's quite a bit of blood. A couple mentions of suicide attempts. A glib description of imagined violence involving a baby.

Sex

Bridget has sex with men she's just or just recently met. Very frank sexual conversations, including graphic content around "period sex." Bridget doesn't use birth control other than the rhythm method.

Language

"F--k" is used sporadically; other strong language includes "cum," "boob," "hell," "pissed," "s--t." "Jesus!" is used as a exclamation.

Consumerism

Bridget buys Tampax and Cookie Crisp cereal.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink wine and beer in social situations; sometimes sex follows. After a brave moment, a character exclaims that she needs some wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Saint Frances is a coming-of-age drama about a 34-year-old feminist slacker (Kelly O'Sullivan) who chooses to have a medicinal abortion while working as a nanny. It's staunchly pro-choice and doesn't shy away from addressing the bloody results of a termination: Characters examine a bulkier clot and wonder whether it was the zygote. That's not directly shown to viewers, but plenty of menstrual blood is, perhaps in an effort to destigmatize how women's bodies function. Really, the whole film is about removing the shame that's sometimes connected to womanhood and motherhood in the form of postpartum depression, breastfeeding, periods, incontinence, and sex. While characters speak bluntly about sex (using words including "cum" and "f--k"), those conversations are mostly about partners communicating, including addressing a resistance to using condoms. As the title suggests, the movie deals with religion -- specifically, the Catholicism that Bridget has turned away from but that the family she works for embraces. The film is ultimately about promoting choice that goes beyond terminating a pregnancy: It's about having the choice to be yourself, to love who you want when you want, to pursue your dreams on your own schedule, and to start a family when you're ready.

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What's the story?

In SAINT FRANCES, Bridget (Kelly O'Sullivan) is an aimless 34-year-old college dropout who leaves her job as a restaurant server to take an "easier" summer gig as a nanny. Life gets more complicated when her new relationship with Jace (Max Lipchitz, who's memorable and natural in his first acting role) results in an unexpected pregnancy, her 6-year-old charge Frances (Ramona Edith Williams) turns out to be equal parts precocious and obstinate, and her role in the household is a source of conflict between Frances' two moms.

Is it any good?

This film festival award winner feels less like a movie than a Woke Checklist for Millennials. Abortion, breastfeeding in public, geriatric pregnancy, same-sex interracial marriage, queer parenting, postpartum depression, conflict resolution, and men who write in "emotions journals": It's the cinematic equivalent of a Prius with a Co-Exist bumper sticker in a Whole Foods parking lot. While Saint Frances has some admirable goals -- i.e., trying to remove negative attitudes about the way nature affects women's bodies -- it pushes its agenda as if daring viewers to show any discomfort.

It all might go down a bit easier if Bridget was a tad more likable -- flawed is one thing, abrasively blah is another. It's always tough to care about a character who doesn't care about herself and is careless with others. As we all do, Bridget grows through the influence of the well-drawn characters around her: precocious Frances (newcomer Williams is surely some kind of acting savant), overwhelmed mother Maya (Charin Alvarez), and supportively sweet Jace. He's a remarkable flip on how men are "expected" to behave: He's not only not grossed out when Bridget's period starts during sex, but he contributes to the cleanup and he stays with her through the day she has the abortion, experiencing it with her as much as possible. On the other hand, some of the movie's details seem, as the kids say, a bit "extra": self-righteous white women, protest yard signs, and "no sugar" directives. Accompanied by an acoustic guitar score that might go on to a future life as "hold" music, Saint Frances is like a modern-day adult version of what Gen X knew as "Free to Be You and Me."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their beliefs surrounding unplanned pregnancy, contraception, and abortion. How were all three depicted in the film? Do you agree with the way they were handled?

  • How does the film use a child to help Bridget grow? We think about how adults help children develop into responsible adults, but do you think there are times when children serve a similar purpose for grown-ups?

  • The filmmakers appear to have been trying to create a film that would normalize things that are, in fact, normal. What did you notice? Did you like their approach?

  • What does the film say about society's expectations of  achievement and "success"? How do you think success should be measured? 

  • How does the film reflect the complicated ways women treat each other? Do you think it's accurate? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strong female characters

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