Academy Award winner Melissa Leo delivers a devastating performance in this powerful character piece. Full of long buried desire and quiet sorrows, Francine is at a crossroads of life. The film does not offer any pat explanations as to how Francine came to be who she is, or as to where she should go next. Instead, it explores her character through Leo's extraordinary instinct, talent and presence to deliver a memorable portrait of one woman's journey.
Director: Melanie Shatzky, Brian M. Cassidy
Runtime: 74 minutes
Festivals: Berlin Film Festival, South by Southwest Film Festival
"In this spare, striking drama, Melissa Leo’s unerringly contained performance provides shattering insight into a woman powerless to resist the destabilizing forces of her life. A minimalist, image-based character study that is almost impossibly fragile and yet emotionally robust, Francine is a legitimate discovery. It’s propelled by Melissa Leo’s remarkable title-role performance, rigorous in its honesty and unimpeded by even a scrap of vanity. Made on a shoestring, this first narrative feature from husband-and-wife filmmaking team Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky is raw, intimate and observed with penetrating acuity.
Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky’s Francine, a small but striking independent feature, stars Melissa Leo as a lonely ex-convict who surrounds herself with a growing, ever more unsanitary home menagerie. Instead of mocking its protagonist’s eccentricities, the film makes achingly palpable the depth of her connection to her animal friends. - Dennis Lim, THE NEW YORK TIMES
The austere approach and stark naturalism invite comparison with the work of Kelly Reichardt, and the subject specifically recalls Wendy and Lucy. (Producers Joshua Blum and Kate Stern have both worked with Reichardt.) The earliest films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne also come to mind while watching. But Cassidy and Shatzky, whose backgrounds are jointly in photography and documentary, have their own voice and their own nonjudgmental gaze. The stealth impact of Francine is tremendous given its simplicity and strangeness. The same goes for Leo’s performance, an exceptional demonstration of power in silence. It’s inevitable that this woman will crash again, and a testament to the film’s unsentimental emotional veracity that, even through her most distancing behavior, we become invested in her path.
- David Rooney, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER