In "Francine," Oscar-winner Melissa Leo plays a woman struggling to reestablish her sense of self after being released from prison. Unable and somewhat unwilling to connect with others, she seeks solace instead in animals.
Bouncing from a job in a pet shop to working in a veterinary clinic, Francine begins hoarding animals at home, building a menagerie she can't properly care for. Filmmakers Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky focus closely on Leo's title character, leaving supporting characters on the periphery of her world.
The film achieves unexpected moments of grace when Francine slips outside of herself, when she's swept away by the music of a metal band playing outdoors or when she becomes lost in a furtive bathroom hook-up.
Leo remains an eminently watchable and compelling actress, though her performance here feels in some ways more like an exercise than a portrait. Her go-to hard-scrabble persona is starting to read less convincing the more often it's seen.