Wednesday, March 28, 2012

October Baby [2011]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  Roger Ebert (2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

October Baby (directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin, story by Andrew and Jon Erwin as well as Cecil Stokes, screenplay by Jon Erwin and Theresa Preston) is an excellent and remarkably sensitive movie about the extremely divisive issue of abortion.

Given the subject matter and that the film takes a proLife if hand outstretched for eventual reconciliation stance, it may not be easy for many viewers to find the movie playing in many metropolitan areas.  Though living in Chicago, the 3rd largest city in the United States, I had to go to the suburbs of NW Indiana to see it ... reports that the film opened in 390 theaters nationwide, grossed $1.9 million in its first weekend making it #8 box office with a respectable $4.4k/screen average, all quite good for a film that many certainly would have preferred have deep-sixed.

What's the film about?  College freshman, 19-year-old Hannah (played by Rachel Hendrix) collapses on stage during a school play.  Her fainting like this had not happened to her in some years but apparently the pressure of the play as well as college had exacerbated previous health issues which had been numerous since she had been born very prematurely.  At a meeting with her doctor (played by Lance Nichols) a longtime family friend, Hannah's parents Jacob (played by John Schneider) and Grace (played by Jennifer Price) reveal to her why, in fact, she was born so prematurely and had suffered so many earlier health problems -- she had been born prematurely as a result of an interrupted abortion procedure.

How could that be?  Later in the film, Hannah, talking to Mary (played by Jasmine Guy), the nurse who had signed her birth certificate finds from Mary what had happened.  Hannah's mother had come to the abortion clinic where Mary had worked to get an abortion.  But just as the procedure began, she had second thoughts, asked that the procedure be stopped and then ran out of the clinic.  The next day, she came back saying that she's ready now.  Yet, Mary noticed that she was now in the first stages of labor.  So she ran her to the hospital, where she gave birth to twins -- a boy, who was already missing an arm and then Hannah who was intact.  Both, however were very, very premature.  The mother, we find out her name was Cindy (played by Shari Rigby) who did not want them, abandoned them in the hospital and continued on then with her life.

Hannah's parents, Baptist, who had just suffered a miscarriage of twins, saw a posting on a Catholic church bulletin board about the 10 day-old twins born in another if nearby state and immediately decided to adopt them.  The boy, who they named Jonathan, died shortly thereafter.  However, Hannah did make it even if she did need a number of hip surgeries as a child, suffered with occasional epileptic seizures throughout childhood and continued to need an inhaler due to problems with her lungs.  Was the world better for her being present in the world?  The viewer would obviously say yes.  However, Hannah herself had her doubts.

So the film, that does come to involve a "road trip" from her home city to Mobile, Alabama and later to nearby New Orleans, where she finds that her birth-mother Cindy now works as a fairly successful lawyer, becomes a film about self-discovery, discerning values [TM] and ultimately about feeling "wanted."

As such, while about an extreme case -- abortion -- like other films about extreme cases (the films Beginners and more recently Being Flynn come to mind) October Baby is thematically about much more than that.  And the film does offer a hand of reconciliation to "the other side" though, yes, with a pointed "catch."

The film, with some beautiful scenery in it, is a plea to reflect on all of society's values: "What profits a man (or woman) to become 'successful' (in this case a lawyer), if it comes at the cost of sacrificing one's own children?"  Yes, there's forgiveness at the end of the road, yes it was/is all complicated. But at the end of the day, it is a question about values that enter into the equation long before arriving at the abortion clinic -- Is "success" really worth killing for?

And, yes, I do absolutely agree -- EVERY LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.

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