March 31, 2012

Movie Review - October Baby

"I'm Hannah, and this is my story.... And it's not what you think."

“You saw me before I was born.” Psalm 139:16 (NLT)

“As the curtain rises, Hannah hesitantly steps onto the stage for her first theatrical debut in college. Yet before she can utter her first lines, Hannah – unscripted – collapses in front of the stunned audience. After countless medical tests, all signs point to one underlying factor: Hannah's difficult birth. This revelation is nothing compared to what she then learns from her parents: she was actually adopted … after a failed abortion attempt. Bewildered, angered, and confused, Hannah turns for support to Jason, her oldest friend. Encouraged by his adventurous spirit, Hannah joins his group of friends on a Spring Break road trip, embarking on a journey to discover her hidden past … and find hope for her unknown future. In the midst of her incredible journey, Hannah finds that life can be so much more than what you have planned.” (Synopsis from the film's website)

I heard about October Baby last year in an emailed newsletter I get from Provident Films. It looked really good – especially because it had something to do with adoption, which is something that my family is very convicted about. My parents previewed the film on the day it came out, then Arwen and I went to see it on Sunday. It was such an amazing movie... thus the review. : )

The Story
October Baby opens with shots of a little girl and boy running in slow motion through fields and then jumping into a pond, holding hands. Before they do, they kick off their shoes and socks, and the little girl tosses her asthma inhaler onto her shoes. When I saw this, I literally couldn't stop smiling. It was such a good opening to a movie – it shows the long-time relationship between Hannah and Jason, then the constant health issues that Hannah has had since she was born. (A little bit of a spoiler, but I just had to say it!)

After 19-year-old Hannah collapses onstage (in an intense and well-acted moment), she finds out about her birth in an awkward and quite shocking way. That night, she tells “her oldest friend, Jason” (who is not her boyfriend, which surprised me a little) the truth that she'd just learned. He offers to take her to the hospital in Mobile, Alabama where she was born. When he's actually planned it out, he asks her to come with him in a scene that had me laughing out loud (and makes me smile now just thinking about it).

The trip lets you get to know all of the characters better, especially Hannah and Jason and Jason's obnoxious girlfriend. (I wanted to slap that girl...) When Hannah and Jason separate from the group and go to the hospital by themselves, there are several plot twists and what seems like dead ends that had even me wondering how Hannah was going to find her birthmom.

And, once again, I'd better stop. : )

The Characters and Cast

Hannah Lawson is a very solid character that is very well fleshed-out in the film. Like any good character, she has multiple layers and varied strengths and weaknesses. When she finds out the truth about her birth and the events surrounding it, she doesn't fall into the “depths of despair," but keeps her spirits high while she's searching for her birthmother and accepts her past. Also, for a reason unexplained, Hannah has never had a boyfriend. She calls herself a “weird homeschooling freak,” which made me laugh and like her all the more!

The character of Hannah Lawson is played to perfection by Rachel Hendrix, who has only been in one other film as a minor character. When Hannah finds out more and more about her past, she responds as I and any other sane person would – with tears. And yet, with every new fact, Hendrix brings a new depth of emotion to the screen every time! With every new fact gained, her facial expressions change and aren't a repeat of the previous emotion. Frankly, I was a little shocked to find out that she'd only been in one other movie and a car commercial – she's such a good actress!

Jason.... All I can say is “Smiley face.” Arwen and I walked away from the theater both saying, “I like him!” Jason is such a good friend to Hannah and I really appreciate the fact that he's still her friend and even supports her after she finds out that she was adopted. He goes to such lengths as to organize a road trip especially for her, get a rental car, pay for a hotel room, and a lot more! Even after she's overcome by her emotions numerous times in the film, he stays strong and constantly tells her, “It's going to be okay.” *Slight spoiler alert!* Near the end of the film, he even calls her dad, Dr. Lawson, to apologize for overstepping his bounds, which I don't think he did. But, hey - it's still a really good scene and made me like him even more. *End spoiler alert* There was only one thing Arwen and I think he should have done differently, but that was very minor.

Jason Burkey is a very good actor, too – and yes, that's his actual first name! I usually judge actors and actresses based on if they can do a good cry, but it was when Burkey almost cried that made me decide I liked him as an actor. (Well, I liked him in the first scene he was in... but it was then that I really decided I liked him.) He was able to act with so many different emotions – friendliness, humor, anger, sadness. I was also surprised to find that he hadn't been in many movies, either. It always makes me happy when people like the Kendricks and the Erwin brothers choose virtual unknowns to play main characters, especially if, like I saw on Burkey IMDb movie list, they are “found out” and chosen for other movies.

Truman (I can't find the actor's name) and B-Mac (Chris Sligh) were characters that supported Hannah, too, and went on the road trip with her. They were mainly added for comic relief, but I liked them anyway, especially Truman, who delivered such awesome lines as, “Am I German?” and “Excuse me – do you realize this is a library?” B-Mac also made a reference to Star Wars that Arwen enjoyed – “This is our Millennium Falcon, if you will,” speaking of Evelyn, the Volkswagen van that the group takes the road trip in. (Yes, the car has a name! Love it!) As a side note, you might recognize Chris Sligh from American Idol Season Six. He got the chance to sing in October Baby twice.

Objectionable Content
October Baby is rated PG-13 for “mature thematic material,” which is throughout the film. This movie is about an abortion survivor, but they don't say much than that (except for a mild description of something that happened to another abortion survivor). It's a hard subject for most.

Also, there is a scene that Arwen and I thought Jason could have handled differently. There are a couple chances when it could get "iffy" between Hannah and Jason, but they both respect each other and make good decisions.

Usually, in an independent Christian film, such as Fireproof or Come What May, the quality isn't very good. Everything (or sometimes just something) is a little off – the acting, the script, the camera quality, the lighting. I've watched many different qualities of independent Christian films – Remember Me, What If..., Flywheel, The Widow's Might, Facing the Giants, Sybil Ludington, Mandie and the Secret Tunnel being just a few of them. Being a big fan of independent Christian films, no matter what the quality, I've gotten to where I ignore it. But movies I've watched recently, such as Courageous and To Save a Life, are exceptionally better than the rest.

October Baby is no exception. At times, I found the quality better even than Courageous, which I still love. The entire movie was shot so beautifully, I found myself forgetting it was an “indie film.” The picture below is one of my favorite shots. See how the camera caught the sunlight? Simply breathtaking.

In Conclusion
The more people I talk to about October Baby, the more I'm shocked to find that a lot of people know and have heard about it, but for some reason haven't gone. Let me just say that it was worth it! Totally worth it. I keep wanting to go back and see it again!!!

October Baby is a movie that I have put on my favorite movie list and will probably go see again before it comes out on DVD. (At that time, I'm buying it!)

Please go see this exceptionally well-done movie! It'll challenge you to think about your views on many issues, especially abortion!


No comments: