One of the many aspects of reality television that I particularly despise is our ability to watch people suffer without any true conflict of conscience, our complacency to these people being exploited. Why must we feel the need to watch people worse off than us just to make ourselves feel better? “Francis”, staged or not, is a painful exercise in human suffering that’s neither insightful, nor artistic. It’s a grueling artsy semi-documentary about this poor man named Francis who is homeless. The director feels the need to follow this man everywhere from begging on the streets, eating bread from the floor, playing a flute to get money, and his basic agony that seems to emanate almost all the time.
Why does Kavanagh feel the need to focus on someone like this? No, this isn’t a candid look at the homeless, this is exploitative dribble, fiction or not. Why must we watch him dig through garbage, and sleep in a church? What’s the point of this? Meanwhile, we have some very drawn out sequences where he and his wife are basically attempting to get along in spite of the death of his daughter which was pretty much his fault. What’s the reason for exploiting this poor man’s misery?
Are we really supposed to believe a man who feels the need to rationalize begging for money with lines like: “I don’t beg for money they give it to me” would let himself be put on camera to gaze at his daily struggles and turmoil’s? Kavanagh’s direction doesn’t make the experience any less of a challenge. The camera work in “Francis” has to be some of the clunkiest I’ve ever seen. Many times the camera goes completely out of focus and then pans on a tilt over and over and I just lost patience. Was this some feeble attempt at artistic camera play? “Francis” is truly a shrill, utterly unpleasant piece of filmmaking without a point or ounce of merit.