Every once in a while a film comes along which totally shakes up your opinion on a controversial topic. For me, the topic was abortion, and the film ‘Obvious Child’.
Recently showcased at the Sundance Film Festival, Romantic Comedy ‘Obvious Child’, directed by Gillian Robespierre, takes a cold, hard look at what it means to be young, irresponsible and pregnant. It tells the story of aspiring stand up comedian, Donna Stern, whose life is sent into disarray when she suddenly falls pregnant from a one night stand. Donna (Jenny Slate) is your average modern twenty something female: quirky, intelligent, and utterly self righteous. By day she shifts pretentious dust jackets in a local bookshop and by night makes unapologetic jabs on stage at sex and religion, working her own experiences into her comedy routine as she does so.
Donna’s world then starts to collapse around her- she loses her job in the bookshop, gets dumped and starts hating on life. Her wild and flaky ways land her in bed with Max (Jake Lacey)- a well mannered, unspoiled, god fearing Christian, who she sleeps with and falls pregnant to unexpectedly. Their encounter is played out as a stereo-typically cumbersome, drunken encounter where any attempts at sexual protection ultimately fail.
The film then enters into a touching debate on abortion- a topic long held as controversial in mainstream American cinema. Departing from the conventional woman-falls- pregnant-and- lives-happily-ever-after story line, it engages the belief that abortion should be a woman’s right to choose-as Donna does in deciding to pull the plug on motherhood. Surprisingly enough, both her parents support her in her decision- her mum even admits to having had an abortion herself in her college years to lend sympathy. Even more surprising is the fact that father- to-be, Max, despite barely knowing Donna, sticks around, even after the abortion.
For all its candour and guts, ‘Obvious Child’ is proof alone that delicate topics can be tackled with both maturity and honesty on the big screen. Not only did I come away from the film with a greater sense of understanding in the female experience during abortion, but also an enlightened faith in a man’s ability to stick around through it all.