Release Date: March 23, 2012 (limited)
Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material)
Genre: Drama
Run Time:107 min.
Directors: Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin
Actors: Rachel Hendrix, Jason Burkey, John Schneider, Jasmine Guy

A theatrical debut gone horribly wrong leads college freshman Hannah (Rachel Hendrix) to a discovery that shakes her to very core. Finding out that she was adopted is hard enough; the revelation that she was adopted after a premature birth resulting from a botched abortion leads Hannah to conclude “My entire life is a lie.” So, naturally, she sets out to find the truth.

Fortunately for Hannah, Spring Break is at hand and her best guy friend is in charge of his group’s road trip agenda. He talks them into taking a detour to look for clues to Hannah’s birth on their way to New Orleans. It’s not the most believable set-up and the group of students piled in the ancient VW seems chosen more with an eye to political correctness than for what they can contribute to the story, but they’re soon out of the picture so it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is Rachel Hendrix’s fantastic portrayal of Hannah. You can almost read her thoughts as the feelings flit across her expressive face. She hits every emotional nail on the head, giving her journey of discovery and forgiveness a feeling of authenticity. Hannah also rings true as a “Christian home school geek” (her description) with high moral standards who sees no need for a wild side.

Jason Burkey, as Hannah’s ‘just friend’ (also named Jason), exudes the boyish charm of a young Matthew McConaughey. His puppy eyes and curly locks—not to mention his character’s adorably awkward attempts to work out his feelings for Hannah—are sure to win the hearts of female viewers. Together they’re a pair of gawky, well-meaning, good kids. If there was an Oscar category for cutest screen couple, these two would be on the short list.

But it’s Jasmine Guy’s portrayal of the abortion clinic nurse and her powerful confession about the details of Hannah’s birth that will take your breath away. The air was sucked out of the theater when she revealed details neither Hannah nor the audience saw coming. 

Politicians and preachers often try to “put a face on the problem” of the issue at hand. In October Baby, the producers have managed to—literally—put a face on abortion. This could have been an angry piece of propaganda, but instead it’s a sweet story that offers grace, not condemnation. “To be human,” one character says, “is to be beautifully flawed.” Wonder of wonders, October Baby is a message-based film that doesn’t preach, although those who find the pro-life stance a problem may disagree. Even the obligatory talk about forgiveness (including scripture from Colossians) flows naturally into the conversation. It’s a refreshing contrast to so many evangelical films that stop the action to force-feed the audience a three-point sermon thinly disguised as a poorly-written monologue.

This is not to say October Baby is perfect. The pace is often painfully slow. Hannah’s path of discovery is suspiciously easy, with the equivalent of flashing neon arrows leading her inexorably from one clue to the next with nary a wrong turn in sight. There are unexplained details, inconsistencies, and coincidences that can be crazy-making if you think too hard, so you’d be advised to just go with the flow. The ending may be a little too perfect, with every plot thread tied neatly in a pretty bow, but it’s sweet enough that only the most cynical viewers will complain.

Don’t even think about getting up before the credits roll—you’ll just find yourself standing on the theater stairs, transfixed by Shari Rigby’s testimony of how her role of Hannah’s birth mother reflects her real-life experience and the healing she experienced during filming. It’s almost as potent as the film itself.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Hannah shown taking a multitude of pills for her various medical conditions. College kids head to New Orleans for Spring Break, clearly intent on partying. One boy talks about drinking, getting drunk, blacking out, and getting arrested as a result.
  • Language/Profanity: None.
  • Sex/Nudity: Several female characters wear outfits a bit on the skimpy side but nothing more revealing than seen on teens in most American malls. Hannah and Jason share a hotel room (out of necessity) but she’s in bed, he’s on the floor—and they both end up asleep on the couch in the lobby, freaked out by the implications. Hannah talks about being a virgin and not having a “wild side.” Several characters sleep touching each other while piled in the van on the road.
  • Violence: Hannah has a seizure, shown from her perspective and that of the audience. The description of the abortion and its aftermath is brutal but thankfully not shown on-screen.
  • Spiritual Themes: Every life is beautiful. There’s a clear message of grace; it’s even stated in the credits that they want the film to be healing for post-abortive women, not condemning. Learning to trust God and the power of forgiveness are not just talked about, they’re shown. The film offers rare positive reinforcement for young people who do not follow the sexually-active, hard-living “norm” we see in so much of the media.