Fran

Fran (Glenda Hambly, 1985) prod. David Rapsey for Barron Films, exec. prod. Paul D. Barron, Bush Christmas Productions, wr. Glenda Hambly, dp Jan Kenny; Noni Hazlehurst loses her children as wards of the state due to her failure as a mother; funded partly by the WA Film Council and shot in Perth; Eastman colour, 16 mm, 94 min.

Fran has often been called a social realist drama but the film comes into clearer focus when it is viewed as a powerful modern tragedy. A vivacious character from a difficult social background is determined not to be a victim of circumstance, but her fatal flaw – an utterly desperate need for love – leads to regrettable decisions that harm both herself and those around her. This may make Fran sound drab and depressing but it’s not, thanks to Noni Hazlehurst’s life-affirming and emotionally wide-ranging lead performance and Glenda Hambly’s insightful direction and writing.

Initially, the film seems to be setting up a feminist story of a working-class battler, a proudly independent woman in a world of male louts. It quickly reveals a more complex position in which Fran reacts to ill-treatment by behaving in less than admirable ways. The film seeks neither to excuse nor to condemn this; rather, it sets out to reach an understanding of the social and psychological dynamics of her situation. Lynden Barber.

It seems to me that Lynden Barber's second paragraph, with which I agree, contradicts his position in his first: a tragedy does not work in the way he goes on to describe. I don't see Fran as having a 'fatal flaw' in the Bradleyan sense; and she has no height to fall from. This is precisely a social realist drama, as LB clearly shows in the last sentence quoted, and, as he reveals elsewhere in his article, this follows logically from the documentary origins of Hambly's film.


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