The “A” Word
A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Obvious Child reminds me strongly of another film this year that tackles a heavy topic and handles it with an incredible level of maturity, Calvary. Obvious Child has been called “the abortion comedy”, which would be sort of accurate if you were trying to summarize the basic premise of the film and even then it would be unkind to the film as a whole. Obvious Child’s basic story does indeed center around a woman who has an abortion after a one-night stand gone wrong but it goes far beyond that. There’s a nuanced portrayal of a woman over the course of a short eighty-three minutes that for unfortunate reasons seems revelatory in 2014. There’s no judgment, no sharp criticism, but simply a tale of a woman who commits an action. It feels honest, it feels real, and it hits you right where it needs to.
Abortion is one of those things that film has largely stayed away from, until it basically showed that every single woman who chose that path was going to die horrible at the end or say “No! I will be a mother after all!” at the end of it. The amount of times that this has happened seems almost countless. Frankly, it’s shameful that we simply can’t tackle this issue without providing some sort of happy and or satisfying ending in the process that tries to babysit the issue and make everyone feel comfortable at the end. There’s little babysitting in Obvious Child but equally importantly, there’s little judgment. Donna aborts the child not out of menace or because, as the popular trope goes, “just doesn’t want to handle it.” She goes through all of the potential consequences in each situation and decides that at that moment in her life, having a child is the last thing she wants to do.
The film’s strength comes from a feeling of germaneness, embodied in the absolutely phenomenal Jenny Slate, who gives a performance that ought to shoot her to stardom. She’s constantly relatable, even though her numerous fart jokes get a bit tiresome after a bit. The film smartly doesn’t just simply make her the funny girl who got knocked up and is now going to have an abortion. She’s a real person with human feelings that go beyond simplicity and Slate embodies each of these emotions superbly. Sure, people might run with this movie as being a piece of “liberal propaganda” but I would urge anyone reading into that not to take that criticism seriously. The film is not just about abortion, abortion just happens to be a significant part of the film’s narrative structure. Obvious Child, a strong candidate for any top of the year lists, is phenomenally well-constructed, germane, and above all, human.
Title: Obvious Child
MPAA Rating: R
Directed by: Gillian Robespierre
Produced by: Elisabeth Holm
Screenplay by: Gillian Robespierre
Story by: Gillian Robespierre, Karen Maine, Elisabeth Holm
Based On: Obvious Child by Anna Bean, Karen Maine, Gillian Robespierre
Starring: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, Gabe Liedman, David Cross
Music: Chris Bordeaux
Cinematography: Chris Teague
Editing: Casey Brooks, Jacob Craycroft
Production Company: Rooks Nest Entertainment, Sundial Pictures, Votiv Films
Distributor: A24 (US)m The Exchange (International)
Running Time: 83 minutes
Release Dates: January 17, 2014 (Sundance)
Image Courtesy: Sundance Filmguide