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Film Festival Hit 'Saint Frances' Opens In Theaters


The indie comedy "Saint Frances" was a film fest hit even before it won awards and a distribution deal at South by Southwest. Today it opens in theaters, and critic Bob Mondello says it's a low-key charmer.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Bridget is not remotely sure what she wants to do with her life except that, at 34, she's tired of waiting tables. She's looking for other work, something she remembers with a start as she and Jace, a waiter she's met at a party, are showering the next morning.


KELLY O'SULLIVAN: (As Bridget) You got to go.

MAX LIPCHITZ: (As Jace) OK. Why?

O'SULLIVAN: (As Bridget) I have a job interview.

LIPCHITZ: (As Jace) What for?

O'SULLIVAN: (As Bridget) To be a nanny.

LIPCHITZ: (As Jace) You must really like kids.

O'SULLIVAN: (As Bridget) There you go.

LIPCHITZ: (As Jace) Can I see you again?

MONDELLO: He will. He's a keeper. First, though, Bridget's interview - a mixed-race lesbian couple pregnant for a second time and looking for help with the first child, Frances, when the new one is born.


LILY MOJEKWU: (As Annie) Have you nannied before?

O'SULLIVAN: (As Bridget) I've babysitted (ph) - sat.

MOJEKWU: (As Maya) Dana mentioned you had siblings.

O'SULLIVAN: (As Bridget) Yeah, I have a younger brother. He's six years younger.

CHARIN ALVAREZ: (As Maya) Oh, that'll be the age difference for Franny and Wally. We were worried that it might be too far apart for them to be friends.

MOJEKWU: (As Annie) Are you close with your brother?

O'SULLIVAN: (As Bridget) No. He has, like, a job and a house and is very responsible. We don't have a lot in common.

MONDELLO: Bridget has a gift for saying the wrong thing. But after a false start, she's hired to take care of Frances, who is a handful.


RAMONA EDITH WILLIAMS: (As Frances) You're not my mom. I don't know her.

MONDELLO: It's at about this moment that Bridget discovers she and Jace are pregnant - not a welcome discovery, though he tries every way he knows to be supportive. She opts for an abortion pill.


O'SULLIVAN: (As Bridget) I feel like you should have to do something - like, give yourself food poisoning or something.

LIPCHITZ: (As Jace) OK. What do we got?

O'SULLIVAN: (As Bridget) I think I have some really old chicken.

LIPCHITZ: (As Jace) I can't tell if you're serious.

MONDELLO: Kelly O'Sullivan, who both stars and wrote the screenplay, gives Bridget an Amy-Schumer-meets-Greta-Gerwig vibe, taking a nonjudgmental approach to hot button topics - abortion, queer parenting, depression. And she and director Alex Thompson have a way of upending gender norms that make "Saint Frances" as appealing as its 6-year-old title character, played by Ramona Edith Williams.


WILLIAMS: (As Frances) I don't want to be quiet.

O'SULLIVAN: (As Bridget) We'll go to the park afterward. I just need some quiet time to think.

WILLIAMS: (As Frances) About your choices?

O'SULLIVAN: (As Bridget) What?

WILLIAMS: (As Frances) When I'm in time out, I'm supposed to think about my choices.

MONDELLO: When Bridget is learning just how accomplished she already is from a child who's grown up in a feminist, woman-strong household, "Saint Frances" hits a sweet spot that's really sweet.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF ASO'S "COFFEE.") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.