Elevated Films, an outdoor independent film series that supports cinema and local youth arts programs in Chicago, will kick off its summer slate with a sneak preview of Alex Thompson and Kelly O’Sullivan’s Saint Frances on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel on Thursday, June 13. The event offers an excellent opportunity for Chicagoans to see the locally made dramedy before it opens theatrically later in 2019. Saint Frances recently won two awards at the South by Southwest Film Festival where it had its world premiere in March—a surprising feat for a first feature with no recognizable stars in the cast. A single viewing makes it immediately apparent why it resonated with judges and audiences: This female-centric character study, which is shot through with compassion, insight and originality, speaks to our cultural moment in a way that other recent American movies do not. Director Thompson will be on hand at the Ace Hotel screening with members of the cast, including writer and lead actress O’Sullivan, for a post-screening Q&A moderated by filmmaker Kris Swanberg.
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Saint Frances centers on Bridget (O’Sullivan), a 34-year-old Chicago woman with no “fancy job” (she’s a server), no boyfriend and no real direction in life. After she gets a job as a nanny for the film's title character, the 6-year-old daughter of an interracial lesbian couple in Evanston, Bridget also unexpectedly finds herself pregnant in the wake of a one-night stand. This basic premise might feel reminiscent of other recent American indies, but the narrative takes a completely unexpected turn. It continually moves in gratifyingly unanticipated directions as it flips expectations about gender roles, includes some surprisingly edgy humor, and focuses primarily on the relationship between Bridget and Frances. In the process, Saint Frances ends up feeling less like other movies and more like a messy slice of real life. To give away more of the plot would be a crime, but the conclusion is admirable for the way it goes against the grain of how much a protagonist’s external circumstances are supposed to change over the course of a film. The changes that do occur are ultimately more of the interior—and more profound—variety.
The Elevated Films screening series continues throughout the summer on the Ace Hotel rooftop, with the Chicago premiere of Lynn Shelton's Sword of Trust (starring comedian and podcaster Marc Maron) and the Sundance hit Greener Grass. These screenings will take place on yet-to-be-determined dates in July and September. For more information about the upcoming screening of Saint Frances and additional outdoor screenings at the Ace Hotel this summer, check out the Elevated Films website.