1 September 2014

On Screen: Obvious Child

*I will preface this review by saying that I am firmly pro-choice and, although I don't discuss this in much detail in the review, please do be aware before you embark on reading.*

I had heard a little about 'abortion rom-com' Obvious Child and, as I love independent cinema, was really interested in seeing it, especially as it starred Jenny Slate (aka Mona-Lisa 'the wo-o-orst' Sapperstein in  Parks & Recreation) Finding myself at a loose end this weekend, I took myself off to my new local cinema and gave it a watch.

Donna Stern (Slate) is a stand-up comedienne who gets dumped up with by her boyfriend following his affair with one of her friends. Drowning her sorrows, Donna has a one night stand with Max and a few weeks later finds herself pregnant. She decides to have an abortion but her growing feelings for Max and her head-on collision with actual adulthood make things increasingly difficult.

Any film that takes its cue from Paul Simon is going to be a winner in my book, and there is so much else to love about Obvious Child.
Donna is such a brilliant character; as her best friend says, she is unapologetically  herself- she's funny, frank and honest, covering subjects that are generally seen as taboo (and shouldn't be!) with openness and humour. All the relationships with her friends, and especially those with her family, are so realistic and warm and the writing is sharp, fresh and funny.

Many of the reviews for Obvious Child focus on the termination that Donna decides to have, which I think diminishes the film and what it's about in a way, and it's definitely seen it be criticised by people who haven't given the film a chance. 
The fact that she has an abortion isn't a spoiler, and I think that shows that there is so much more to the film than this. Obviously it is a large and very important part of the story, and it is right that it gets attention, especially for the realistic way it portrays abortion- no tragedy, just a woman making a decision that may be difficult but is definitely right for her, and going on to live a happy life regardless. I did like the stark contrast between Donna's experience and that of the past, which shows just how far we have-thankfully- progressed, although there is still so much we need to do to make abortion safe and accessible all across the world.

 However, to solely focus on this singular aspect does a disservice to the characters and other themes the film encompasses. Focusing on the abortion doesn't praise the writing, the humour and the lovely, bittersweet feelings that run throughout the film.
It doesn't highlight the scene where Donna waits outside her boyfriend's house making deals with herself while you can see her heartbreak written across her face, a scene that almost had me in tears right with her. It doesn't highlight the lovely Max and the way he looks at Donna as she dances to the song from which the film takes its title (and which I can't stop listening to.) It doesn't look at the scene where Nellie is rightfully powerfully angry at the way women's bodies and reproductive decisions are legislated by men who will never have to make the same difficult decisions women do.

For me, Obvious Child is as much about making your way through your twenties being scared, skint and caught between facing your responsibilities head on and wanting to run back home and climb in bed with your mum again as it is about Donna's choice to have an abortion.
It's a lovely, open and honest film with a relatable story for everyone who's felt apprehensive about having to grow up and it also brings attention to the reality which women face the world over every single day.

Have you seen Obvious Child? What did you think of it? Are there any other films which tackle abortion-funny or not- that you can recommend?