Should You Go See October Baby?

From another team of Southern-based Christian filmmaking brothers comes a new film with an unusual plot twist: a coming-of-age story about a girl who discovers she’s a survivor of a failed abortion. OCTOBER BABY (PG-13), directed and produced by Jon and Andrew Erwin, opens today, March 23, in select theaters across the nation.

Should you see it? The answer to that is wrapped up, in part, by an understanding of the film business. As a fellow filmmaker, I know firsthand how hard it is to get funding and distribution for topics that aren’t seen as money-makers. Anyone who can complete the incredible marathon of funding, filming, and finishing a film deserves a lot of respect.

So, yes, I’d encourage you to go see it. Not only because it’s good to signal to Hollywood that American audiences want a diversity of viewpoints, but also because it will stimulate conversations about an unusual perspective on the pro-life/pro-abortion debate. And while abortion is the obvious subject of OCTOBER BABY, the bigger theme is forgiveness.*

Instead of focusing on the justifiable anger of a girl who was deemed unworthy to live, instead it points beyond the anger to the generous act of forgiveness. But it is the theology of forgiveness that seems to trip up some viewers. OCTOBER BABY’s main character is nineteen-year-old Hannah, played by the talented and luminous Rachel Hendrix, whose poor health finally pushes her adoptive parents into revealing her status as an abortion survivor they adopted.

It’s only halfway through the film, however, that any reference is made to her faith. Unfortunately, it happens in one of the most awkward scenes of the movie, in which she blurts out to her lifelong friend (a boy she is attracted to) that she is afraid he is judging her as a “Christian homeschooling freak.” To his understandable confusion about this (after all, as lifelong friends, this background should not be news to him), she defends herself with: “I have a wild side. You’ve seen me play scrabble. I’m wild!”

That’s how viewers find out she’s a Christian. The second reference is when she enters a Catholic church and talks to a priest about her emotions, but only after announcing she is a Baptist. The priest is the one to talk to her about what the Bible says about forgiveness. This is where some who have reviewed the movie both publicly and privately have struggled with the lack of the complete gospel message.

But from a filmmaker’s perspective, I don’t think that scene calls for a complete gospel presentation. Both characters are presented as people who have some reason to already know the facts of the gospel (evangelical disputes with Catholic doctrine, aside). So it would be unnatural in conversation between these characters to rewind entirely to the facts of the gospel, rather than going straight to Scriptures that remind one of the truth of the gospel and how to apply it. Certainly I don’t feel compelled to offer a complete gospel presentation whenever I counsel other Christians, but I do want to point them to the particular aspect of gospel truth they seem to be overlooking in their circumstances.

This scene is also a savvy nod from the filmmakers to the fact that the pro-life topic is a place Catholics and evangelicals find common ground. The film’s outreach is openly including both sides, as it should to maximize the film’s audience and impact.

This is the first feature film from the Erwin brothers and it shows a bit in the dialogue, as well as in the plot and character development—especially among the typical so-called friends (self-absorbed girlfriend, nerdy sidekick, colorful bus-driving dude, random but undeveloped friends-of-ethnic-diversity, etc.). Some of the most important conversations in the film could have been much stronger if the script had allowed for in-depth discussions (rather than conventional plot devices such as “don’t talk to me!” followed by a slamming door).

That said, it’s still an intriguing film to watch. The Erwin brothers are obviously skilled in the craft of filmmaking. The photography is stunningly gorgeous, even on the standard-definition preview DVD I watched. (It was filmed on the RED camera, which is the ultimate in eye-candy for shooting digital films.) The editing was also very good.

Even though viewers go into the film knowing it’s about an abortion survivor, there’s an unexpected plot twist in the film that expands this topic. However, I found myself distracted by the medical facts that were presented in this twist. (Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert!) Is it possible for a baby to not bleed out when a limb is detached twenty-four hours prior to birth in a partial abortion? Comments from those more knowledgeable than I are certainly welcome on this point. I certainly hope the script was vetted by medical professionals because the beautiful message of forgiveness does not need to be swamped by criticism surrounding the medical facts of a minor plot point.

Overall, OCTOBER BABY is a commendable film, a beautiful and brave exploration of the impact of forgiveness from a generation that has survived abortion. This perspective is timely and worthy of support.

 

Carolyn McCulley is an author, speaker, and founder of the D.C.-area documentary film company, Citygate Films.

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About the Author

Carolyn McCulley

Carolyn McCulley

In 2009, Carolyn started Citygate Films, a documentary film company where she is a producer/director. Prior to that, Carolyn served as the media specialist for Sovereign Grace Ministries, worked in corporate communications, and was a television and commercial film producer. She is a frequent conference speaker and has authored several books.

 

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