by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: * (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Rachel Hendrix as HANNAH
Jason Burkey as JASON
John Schneider as JACOB
Jennifer Price as GRACE
Jasmine Guy as NURSE MARY
Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Productions
Directed by: Andrew and Jon Erwin
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I’m going to warn you right now: I did not like “October Baby.” In fact, I fiercely disliked it. This wasn’t because of the ham-fisted abortion message, but rather for the schmaltzy and cheesy delivery of the story.
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However, don’t take this bad review as a warning to avoid this movie. Rather, look at “October Baby” as the kind of film that I just generally dislike. Over the years, I’ve learned that the movies carrying a “Fox Faith” label, or those that could carry a label like that, simply aren’t my cup of tea. If it can be aired on the Hallmark Channel to huge numbers, it’s probably not something I’ll enjoy.
But if you like that kind of movie. If you like faith-based messages in your movie, generally sanitized scripts with a message and something my mother-in-law would weep during while watching, you’ll probably really enjoy it.
So in many ways, this negative review of “October Baby” is a positive review for those who like this kind of movie. After all, if the movie doesn’t make me roll my eyes and scoff, it’s probably too edgy for some people.
Yeah, that’s quite a backhanded compliment, but I feel it’s a necessary disclosure. After all, I’m not saying “October Baby” is inherently a terrible movie. I just felt it was terrible.
With that said, here’s my unflinching negative review.
“October Baby” tells the story of Hannah (Rachel Hendrix), a teenager who has suffered from medical afflictions all her life. After exhibiting what her parents interpret as suicidal thoughts, she is told the truth about her history: Not only was Hannah adopted, but she was born as a result of a botched late-term abortion. This sends Hannah on a journey of self-discovery as she tries to track down her birth mother and search for forgiveness.
To its credit, this movie isn’t as much about an anti-abortion message as it is a story of forgiveness and redemption. To the aforementioned fans of faith-based films and heavy-handed Hallmark Channel messaging, this is great. For me, it made the film a groaner.
From a technical perspective, “October Baby” is well made, much more than other high-profile faith-based indie films like the godawful “Fireproof.” It’s well shot and has a fine look, like one of the many films based on Nicholas Sparks’ works. And for the most part, it’s a well-acted film.
However, the story has some trouble figuring out what it wants to be. One of the bigger stumbling blocks in the message of “October Baby” is what it is actually trying to say. Does it take a stance on late-term abortions, a practice that is distasteful even to people who consider themselves pro-choice? Not really. Sure, the message of “Every Life Is Beautiful” permeates the film and all the bonus features. But rather, the message can be interpreted to be thus: If you’re going to perform a late-term abortion, do it right.
In some ways, I might have respected this film more if it actually took a stronger, hard-lined stand on this issue. Instead, it pussyfoots around and lets everything work out so tenderly. It’s trite and painful to watch. There’s no shame thrown Hannah’s way for thrusting herself back into her birth mother’s life, which is a huge invasion of privacy. The emotional angst she could inflict on the woman and her family is considerable, and its all allowed in the name of a whiny teenage girl searching for meaning in her life.
“October Baby” tries to walk a line between abortion drama and adoption drama. All the wringing of hands in this film are results of cliches we’ve seen in television and movies for years. Hannah is searching for who she is, questioning herself. The truth is that all teenagers feel the need to find themselves, adopted or not. Hannah operates with the utmost selfishness throughout the film, and all is forgiven, when she really should just grow up and deal with the hand that life dealt her.
Sigh... I’m such a cynic.
“October Baby” comes with some decent special features, even if they are as pushy and cheesy as the film itself. There’s a commentary on the film featuring the Evan Brothers and “the October Baby Family.” There’s also bloopers, deleted scenes, a music video and several featurettes: “Finding Hannah” about casting the lead, “Shari’s Story” about one of the actor’s unexpected connection to the film, “Gianna Jessen: The Inspiration” about a famous abortion survivor, “Singing the Praises of October Baby,” “Facebook Q&A with Rachel and Jason” and “Every Life Is Beautiful,” which is a series of interviews with the people involved in the film.