Friday, January 24, 2014

October Baby [2010]

October Baby is an independent prolife film about a young woman named Hannah, and her road-trip journey to find her biological mother. However, there's a twist. Hannah's mother gave her up for adoption after her abortion failed and Hannah was born alive.
This is a pretty good premise for a prolife film, and an original one too. Usually prolife movies focus on the struggle of a woman and her choice. This is a good story template, but it's been used a lot. Despite that however, the execution of October Baby was... not that great.
Let's start with the leading lady, Hannah Lawson.
Hannah is not a likeable character. At all. She's petulant, she's whiny, and she pities herself to no end. I know that Hannah has problems. She was almost aborted, and that's terrible. She's grown up with these people she thought were her parents, only to discover that they aren't. That really is upsetting.
But. The film's tagline is Life is Beautiful. Hannah is rich, she has a boyfriend, she's landed the lead in the school play, she's beautiful, she lives in a great part of the countryside. Her life is so obviously beautiful that this tagline actually feels kind of insulting to those with less perfect lives.
I'm trying to keep my personal grievances out of this, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Then there's Hannah's boyfriend, Jason. He's your generic nice guy, except when it comes to Hannah's real father. There's a shouting match between the two, and it ends with Jason yelling "You're not even Hannah's real father!" That is a horrible thing to say to someone!
What does her dad do? Smack Jason and state that he is Hannah's father, even if not biologically so? Of course not! He lets the little squirt get away with it because for a prolife movie, this movie really seems to resent adoptive parents.
Hannah goes on and on and on about how her life is a lie, and that her parents aren't her real parents. And she's portrayed as being perfectly justified in saying/thinking so. Nobody and nothing in the movie sends the audience anything to counter that message. Nobody comes forward to remind her of all her adoptive parents sacrificed for her. And then there's the issue of why they didn't tell her she was adopted. The movie shows us how hard it is on Hannah- but we never see how hard it would be for her parents to break this news to her. It's all about poor Hannah. I'm sorry, Hannah. Other characters have problems too. Let me make this clear. I am not saying that the trauma of abortion is something you can get over in a day. It's a horrible tragedy that affects the lives of everyone involved. But at some point, somebody needs to tell Hannah to get over herself.
Aside from those issues, there are storytelling problems.
I like the basic idea, Hannah goes on a roadtrip with some friends, and hopes to track down her biological mother while she's at it. It's kind of fun, and some of her friends are really funny.
The problem comes in when, soon after they start the roadtrip, their car gets ticketed for being parked in a no-park zone.
The cop starts writing them a ticket, and Hannah comes up and tells him the story of how she's trying to get to Mobile Alabama to find her mother, and how this is her last chance to do so. So the cop, being a nicely sort of fellow, lets it slide and sends them on their merry way. Weee! Now they can go to Oz! But...
Two problems.
One. Her last chance to find her mother?! Is Hannah dying?! Is she not going to have a car?! Is she going to be chained to the floor of her stupid fake parents basement as soon as she gets home?! What is all this business about this road trip being her "Last Chance"?
Though Hannah's sob story is true, there's no way the cop could have known. Police officers and law enforcement hear this kind of excuse every day. It is highly implausable that he would buy her little sob story and let them go. And suddenly my thoughts drift to Javert...

"I have heard such protestations, every day for twenty years,
Let's have no more explainations, save your breath and save your tears."

Then there are Hannah's phantom health problems. We're told that, as a result of the failed abortion, she had a ton of hip surgeries as a very young child. She also has asthma and epilepsy.
However, Hannah doesn't so much as walk with a limp. There's a part in the movie where she walks for a couple of hours under the hot sun, while heaving a luggage bag. Is she panting? Is she short of breath? Nope.
Hannah is shown with a lot of pill bottles on her nightstand in a hotel one night. She even gets taunted by some evil blonde girl (Why's it always the blonde girl? One of my best friends is Blonde and she's awesome!) for having that many pills.
You want to guess how many times her medications are mentioned again?
Yeah. None.
And aside from her collapse at the beginning of the movie, Hannah's epilepsy is never mentioned again.

I realize that I'm being extremely negative on this well-meaning, decently made movie. Well, sorry about that. I give this movie's prolife message a standing ovation, but the film itself is just way too irritating. To me at least, I have friends who love this movie, and I understand why. Maybe it's because I'm not fond of Christian rock. Which this movie has plenty of. So if you really like Christian rock, this might be the movie for you. :)
In all seriousness, it takes a lot of courage to make a film like this. Just take a look at the iMDB page for this movie, and you'll see people tearing it to shreds because of it's statement that all life is precious and beautiful.
Then again, maybe things would go better for them if they had shown us someone more like... I don't know, Tiny Tim or George Bailey. Those are lives with problems that are also shown to be beautiful.

There is a very good message about forgiveness. Hannah's meet with her mother doesn't go as well as hoped for, and she basically gets the cold shoulder. However, Hannah meets a kind priest who tells her all about the importance of forgiveness and living, etc. This is one of the best things about the movie, and it's nice to see a Catholic priest and a Baptist heroine getting along and having a meaningful conversation.

The Verdict: C+
October Baby has a good, solid prolife message, and has genuinely poignant scenes. There aren't a lot of movies who do what this one does- delving into the tragedy of abortion and showing how it not only hurts the child, but the woman also.
However, there are much better prolife movies. Bella springs to mind, especially since October Baby's opening shot is reminiscent of the butterfly motif in Bella.
October Baby has quite a few story telling flaws, and a really annoying heroine. I guess I would recommend it, but not enthusiastically. Just because you're prolife doesn't mean you have to like every prolife movie that comes along.

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