*Disclaimer: All views in this article are my own. I did not receive compensation to write this review, nor do I receive compensation for traffic to my blog. These opinions are strictly mine based on my own convictions and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Last night, I finally had the opportunity to see October Baby, a pro-life film focusing on one girl’s life after a botched abortion. While I don’t normally give movie reviews, I feel so strongly about this movie and the negative remarks from reviewers from The New York Times and Slate Magazine that I felt like I had to speak up as well!
Spoiler Alert – I may reveal some things from the movie in order to give you a better idea of what to expect before you view this movie for yourself.
October Baby is the story of 19-year-old Hannah (played by Rachel Hendrix), whose life-long health problems cause her to pass out during a stage performance. While running tests to find out the real source of her health issues, the doctor (along with her parents) finally reveals that Hannah was adopted – alive only because the abortion her birth mom attempted was a failure. The botched abortion is apparently the cause of her medical issues. Hannah, reeling from this new knowledge about herself, embarks on a journey to find her birth mom, enlisting the help of her childhood friend and secret love, Jason (Jason Burkey). Along the way, Hannah discovers secrets about herself, the strength to find her way, and forgiveness for the woman who tried to end her life and the parents who lied to her. Also starring are John Schneider (“Dukes of Hazzard,” “Smallville”) as Hannah’s father, Jacob; Jennifer Price as Hannah’s mother, Grace; Jasmine Guy (“A Different World”) as Nurse Mary; and Shari Rigby as Hannah’s birth mom, Cindy. Also appearing in the film is American Idol (2007) contestant and Top 10 Winner, Chris Sligh.
The movie is rated PG-13, only because of mature thematic material. There is absolutely no cursing, no taking the Lord’s name in vain, and no sexual innuendos. There is also no sex in the movie, including no kissing. At the point where you expect a kiss, the couple pulls apart, laughing instead.
There is one scene that I thought was going to turn into a problem but was actually used as a way to point out Hannah’s commitment to doing right instead. When Hannah and Jason arrive, dripping wet, at a hotel, they find that there is only one room available for them. While Hannah is given the bed, Jason opts to sleep on the floor. The conversation turns to the fact that Hannah has never been with a guy “in that way” because she’s a “good, Christian, home schooled girl.” Jason never responds, never even gets up to make a move on her. Hannah, instead, jumps up with her blanket and pillow and declares that no matter the circumstances, she can’t be in there with him. The two, instead, fall asleep, sitting up, on the couch in the hotel lobby.
Based in Alabama, the movie is inspired by the true-life story of Gianna Jessen, who is the survivor of a failed saline abortion in 1977. Jessen now travels from city to city sharing her story. Some of the facts from the movie are based on other failed abortions and did not happen to Jessen herself, but the movie clearly portrays abortion as a horrible choice that has life-long effects on all who are involved (including the nurse, the babies, the birth mom, the birth mom’s family, and the adoptive family). There are some graphic details given about the abortion, so I would not recommend taking children to see this movie.
Because of the theme of the movie, The New York Times critically reports, “More slickly packaged than most faith-based fare, “October Baby”gussies up its anti-abortion message with gauzy cinematography and more emo music than an entire season of ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ But not even a dewy heroine and a youth-friendly vibe can disguise the essential ugliness at its core: like the bloodied placards brandished by demonstrators outside women’s health clinics, the film communicates in the language of guilt and fear” (“Obsessed by the Circumstances of Her Birth: ‘October Baby,’ with Jasmine Guy and John Schneider” by Jeannette Catsoulis on March 22, 2012).
I’m not sure what movie this critic was watching, but I never once perceived a message of guilt and fear! Instead, the message conveyed was one of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. The only time I sensed there was any remnant of fear in the movie was when Hannah did not know the truth about her life and was concerned about her health. Perhaps the critic is describing the brief encounter with the birth mom, who appeared guilty when confronted by her attempted abortion victim (yes, I used the word “victim”). But let me ask you, if you had tried to abort your child but instead ended up delivering and giving up that child, wouldn’t a confrontation by that person send you reeling? It would almost be like seeing a ghost. After all, you were resolved to never know the life that was inside of you, and then here she stands before you as a grown woman. I think the actress portrayed those kind of feelings instead of guilt and fear!
According to Slate Magazine, “The message is perfectly of-the-moment and demonstrates how anti-abortion and anti-woman messaging often overlap. We have a presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, who a few years ago warned about ‘radical feminism’s misogynistic crusade’ to force women to work ‘outside the home.’ We have Rush Limbaugh slut-shaming the uppity, suit-wearing Georgetown law school student who dared argue health insurance companies should be required to pay for contraception. We have, in other words, October Baby’s false argument writ large and very real—the idea that abortion and family planning are made necessary by women’s unfortunate progress, instead of being needs as old as humanity” (“What October Baby Gets Wrong About Modern Womanhood” by Libby Copeland, published on April 3, 2012).
But the film has no political support, does not ever once flat-out condemn the birth mom, and never even devalues womanhood. Instead, it is a coming-of-age story for a young woman striving to find herself and daring to spread her wings beyond the limits that have been placed on her by her health and her overprotective father. It is the story of a woman realizing her own strength instead of identifying herself by someone else’s choice, which basically promotes womanhood, in my opinion! In fact, the movie ends with Hannah’s stepping out on her own, finally leaving her parents and the comfort of home. The birth mom is never condemned for her choices but is, instead, portrayed as a woman who came away from tragic circumstances and made her way in the world – a story of forgiveness and success.
To say that the movie is anti-woman is simply a way to dissuade anyone (especially women) from going to see the movie! I am not sure about the critic’s own personal experiences, but I do know that the actress who played the birth mom (Jennifer Price) had an abortion herself and had dealt with her own guilt and shame as a result (stay for the credits to hear her testimony). I know that this is just one woman’s experience, but I have often heard of women who never recover from the trauma of aborting their unborn child. Perhaps Copeland has dealt firsthand with abortion and perhaps not, but I think it would be interesting to hear her own personal story before she hastily criticizes a movie with an actress who is willing to share hers.
The truth is that the critics are not pleased with how well this small, Christian film is doing. The New York Times grudgingly reports, “The movie, the first feature by a pair of filmmaking brothers from Birmingham, Ala., opened the same weekend as the chart-topping ‘Hunger Games,’ [sic] but with the backing of evangelical groups and churches, ‘October Baby’ [sic] managed to open at No. 8 and, through Sunday, had made $2.8 million, more than three times its production budget. It is expected to move to more than 500 screens on April 13″ (“Film Inspired by ‘Abortion Survivor’ is Quiet Hit’ by Melena Ryzik on April 4, 2012).
Obviously, this small production is making a huge impact and is a movie that the people want to see! But despite the fact that this movie came in No. 8 last weekend, the top movies list in The New York Times does not name this as one of the top movies. A little bias, perhaps?
One of the best reasons to see this movie is that 10 percent of the movie’s proceeds have been assigned to the Every Life is Beautiful fund, which will disperse the money to pro-life organizations, such as Bethany Christian Services, Hope for Orphans, Family Net, and Focus on the Family, as well as several others.
I know that there are several extremely popular movies in theaters right now, but the media and Hollywood need to know that we want to see more movies like this – ones with strong, Christian values and moral, uplifting plots. Please consider going to see this movie and spreading the word to your friends. Oh, and make sure you take some tissues with you when you go!
“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Ps. 139:13-14).