It’s any penniless director’s dream – getting a brilliant actor to work for free in your little slice of indie pie. Aside from the free publicity and unwarranted interest in your film, having a big hitter, like Melissa Leo in this case, can turn lacklustre direction, story and style on it’s head and make an otherwise tedious film salvageable. Lights down, curtains pulled, welcome to the world premiere of Francine.
Although Leo’s performance as disturbed loner Francine is striking, throughout watching the film, one cannot help but think the financial constraints have shaped the action and narrative too willingly. Standing at a pretty lightweight 75 minutes, it feels like twice the length with half the merit. Nothing ever really happens. This isn’t a problem in itself if you could find something else to be gripped by, but there really is nothing else to the film other than Francine herself who, as a virtually silent, apathetic character, doesn’t hold you captive.
THE GOOD: Leo doing the best with what she’s been given – nothing.
THE BAD: Long, incessant silences which are painful to watch, in more ways than one.
THE UGLY: The sad fact is that any distribution, appraisal or success this film obtains will be driven solely by Melissa Leo’s involvement.