The story behind this sad, slight slice-of-life drama is entirely suited to the simple, DIY nature of the film it inhabits: after signing up to her local online filmmakers’ forum, Oscar-winner Melissa Leo made contact with documentary directors Brian M Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky, and simply offered her services. The result is a spare, haunting, occasionally distressing realist drama in that near-wordless Kelly Reichardt style.
Leo plays Francine, an ex-convict trying to put her life in order. An animal lover, she takes a job at a veterinary clinic, but her inability to deal with life on the outside quickly becomes a problem. Perhaps inevitably, the major strength in ‘Francine’ is Leo’s performance: raw, fractious and (sometimes literally) naked, this is less a role, more the complete inhabitation of a restless, troubled, unpredictable woman. So it’s a shame that Cassidy and Shatzky can’t find a way to make her journey more vivid and compelling: it may be true to life, but the meandering narrative can be frustrating.