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Midway through October Baby there’s a scene in which a nurse played by Jasmine Guy delivers a lengthy monologue about her participation in a horribly botched abortion. The impassioned speech is clearly the raison d’etre of this earnest, faith-based drama, which lacks sufficient entertainment value to make its message go down more palatably.
Its release well timed considering that the issue has dramatically reentered the political arena, this film co-directed by siblings Jon and Andrew Erwin will be nonetheless hard-pressed to find viewers outside of its target audience.
The story begins with 19-year-old freshman Hannah (Rachel Hendrix) suddenly collapsing onstage during a college production. In the subsequent medical examination she finds out that she’s the survivor of a late-term abortion which has resulted in her myriad medical and emotional problems. Oh, and that her father and mother (John Schneider, Jennifer Price) are actually her adoptive parents.
The understandably shell-shocked young woman impulsively decides to go on a road trip with several friends, including platonic buddy Jason (Jason Burkey), with the plan of tracking down her birth mother. The pair eventually split off from the group, finding their relationship deepening as they come closer to Hannah achieving her goal.
The molasses-paced film is filled with scenes in which Hannah engages in endless, earnest conversations with various authority figures, including a helpful priest and a sympathetic cop who offers such sentiments as “Life isn’t always black and white” and “Hate the crime, not the criminal.” During the non-dialogue scenes the oppressive musical score, which includes pop songs obliquely commenting on the film’s themes, cues us as to exactly what we should be feeling.
The filmmakers, longtime music video veterans, have delivered a technically polished production that belies the film’s low budget. They’ve also elicited mostly strong performances: Newcomer Hendrix is appealing as the anguished protagonist; Schneider provides earnest gravitas as the father; and Guy nails her big scene with a quiet intensity. But October Baby offers few surprises in its all too predictable, message laden tale.
Opens: Friday, March 23 (Samuel Goldwyn Films, Provident Films)
Cast: Rachel Hendrix, Jason Burkey, Jasmine Guy, John Schneider, Shari Rigby, Chris Sligh
Directors: Jon Erwin, Andrew Erwin
Screenwriters: Jon Erwin, Theresa Preston
Producers: Jon Erwin, Dan Atchison, Justin Tolley, Cecil Stokes
Executive producers: Jonathan Erwin, Andrew Erwin, Dave Alan Johnson, Joyce Childs, James Stannard, Raymond Harris
Director of photography: Jon Erwin
Editor: Andrew Erwin
Production designer: Ed Gurney
Costume designer: Anna Redmon
Music: Paul Mills
Rated PG-13, 105 mins.
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