“Unhappy marriages so resemble one other, that we do not need to know much about this one.”


Frances Ferguson is a difficult film to assess because it is so deliberately abrasive, a bleak comedy with scant interest in entertaining its audience. Based on real events, our protagonist is an unhappily married, frustrated Midwestern teacher who begins a self-destructive relationship with student. Some will take issue at treating a child sex offence with any humour but Frances Ferguson neither belittles nor belabours the crime itself — the entire affair is concluded within a few minutes, with the film’s focus being the absurdity of the rehabilitation process in a small town. The script’s bone dry humour is sufficiently witty (I did laugh out loud once) but it presents a disposable cast of characters — Nick Offerman’s narration literally announces the last time we see many of them — Frances’ group therapy leader being perhaps the only likeable one in the whole film. Bob Byington deserves credit for bold direction which may find a niche audience that appreciates its acerbic perspective, but I wish there were depth beyond its disquieting sense of disassociation.