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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.

Garry Gillard | New: 17 April, 2013 | Now: 6 April, 2020