A few days ago I finally got to see Unplanned!
I’ve been reading stories, watching interviews and hearing news about the film since its March release in the US in anticipation of its distribution in Australian theatres.
This took as long as it did because it had to be released through a private distribution company. To be honest, I don’t really understand the ins and outs of it, but after many months of waiting on tidbits of news, several theatres across the country screened the film last week.
And I was genuinely impressed. In the first few minutes of the film I cringed internally, hoping against hope this wasn’t going to be some B-grade, contrived, poorly-scripted Christian movie. Happily, it soon became clear that this wasn’t one of those.
For those who aren’t aware, the film is a portrayal of former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson’s autobiographical book of the same name.
It was well-paced, realistic, and didn’t shy away in the slightest either from the brutal reality of abortion, or from portraying each side of the debate honestly.
There were awful, angry pro-lifers yelling slurs; the Planned Parenthood employees were normal, happy women who genuinely believed they’re doing good, and there was a bit of everything in between.
I imagine some will disagree, but I didn’t find the film overly preachy. Yes, some performances were a little hamfisted, and a few characters were on the two-dimensional side, but it also delivered irony without comment – such as a scene in which Abby’s fellow workers throw her a baby shower inside the abortion clinic after hours; the point being that people in this environment can be completely blind to the reality of what they’re doing.
While I’d heard the filmmakers didn’t hide the reality of abortion, I was taken aback at how quickly and completely the film jumped into its subject matter. I wouldn’t call the abortion scenes graphic in the normal sense of the word, but they were incredibly realistic, and as such, had graphic elements to them.
For the most part, the actual abortions are hidden but you, the viewer, do witness some of the effects. It’s hard to explain much more than that without spoiling the film for those who haven’t seen it.
What I really appreciated, though, was the complete annihilation of the clinical, cut-and-dry depiction of abortion as a simple, easy procedure that is so often portrayed. I’ve done a fair bit of work for the pro-life movement throughout my life and even I was surprised at just how messy and uncomfortable the whole thing was. Perhaps to compensate for this, I experienced the same suspension of belief that I imagine the women and medical practitioners involved in an abortion feel. I couldn’t quite allow myself to accept the reality of what I was seeing (easier to do in film) because it was just too terrible.
I’ve been arguing and debating as a pro-lifer for years, and yet I still found the film confronting. It forced me to re-examine, think about and accept what an abortion is – profoundly and hideously barbaric.
I know I’m preaching to the converted here. My point is that I found Unplanned so effective in its unapologetic portrayal of the subject matter, it made someone like me – a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic – stop and think. It made me realise I haven’t been horrified enough by abortion. My biggest complaint about Unplanned is that it wasn’t longer.
Is it a perfect film? No, but it’s easily one of the best movies made by religious filmmakers out there. What’s more is it is having real, palpable effects. According to a recent LifeSiteNews article by Dorothy Cummings McLean:
Johnson is delighted by the impact Unplanned has already had. She told EWTN News that they had referred thousands of men and women who have seen the film to abortion recovery programs and also helped dozens of abortion workers who saw the film to criticize and then decided that they had to leave the industry.
Will it have the same effect in Australia?
It’s hard to tell. There has been absolutely nothing in the media about it, and as it’s only showing through a private distributor, it seems unlikely to reach much of a mainstream audience. This is a shame, but not an unexpected one.
I also can’t help but feel the film coming to Australia right now is timely, given the debate surrounding this extreme abortion legislation in my home state of New South Wales. It was almost a relief to see this movie and remind ourselves of what we’re fighting against. I only wish the Premier and members of Parliament would be open-minded enough to see it, too.