"October Baby," about a teenager who learns she was almost aborted, again marks progress for the Christian-themed movie genre.
Production values have come a long way since the Kendrick brothers, pastors at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., released "Facing the Giants" in 2006. Other titles, "The Ultimate Gift" and "Fireproof" among them, added evidence of amateurs learning their craft as the church sought to fill what it saw as a void of movies that reflect its values.
"October Baby" is released by Sherwood's Provident Films and Samuel Goldwyn. But it was directed, filmed and co-written by Andrew and Jon Erwin, who began as ESPN cameramen in their teens and have won Dove Awards for Christian-themed music videos. This is their first theatrical-release feature.
The movie centers on Hannah (Rachel Hendrix), a high school senior who passes out while in a stage play. We learn Hannah has long had health issues: asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and hip surgeries. This time her doctor tells her she was born very prematurely, at 24 weeks. More than that, she was born after an abortion attempt went wrong.
Hannah gets really angry at her father, Jacob (John Schneider, "The Dukes of Hazzard"), for not telling her sooner that she was adopted and for reading her journal, in which she confesses to struggling psychologically. Not sure why she's not equally peeved at her mother, but Schneider gets all the high-drama scenes to play and plays them pretty well.
Soon Hannah goes on a spring-break road trip with childhood best friend Jason (Jason Burkey) and his buddies ("American Idol" finalist Chris Sligh plays the comic-relief van owner) to seek information about her birth mother.
Jasmine Guy ("The Vampire Diaries," "A Different World") does a standout job as a nurse who was there when Hannah was born, and who tells Hannah more than she bargained for about the late-term abortion attempt. The details felt a bit gratuitous, perhaps inflammatory. Shari Rigby is also good as Cindy, a small but key role.
The movie's weakest spot is a romantic subplot. Hannah clearly has a thing for Jason, who has a jealous girlfriend. This situation is played more black-white judgmental than the circumstances surrounding the abortion.
In the end, "October Baby" turns out to be more about forgiveness and letting go of hurt than it is about abortion.
The film has a glossy, well-scrubbed, sentimental vibe going on. An alt-rock-folk soundtrack geared to attract a young audience works on the tear ducts a bit as well. Attempts at teen humor are not as successful.
The acting and script are pretty good, avoiding preachiness for the most part while hitting the emotional beats within most scenes in a believable fashion. A scene in a church where Hannah talks to a priest was particularly well-handled.
"October Baby" feels a bit like a Lifetime movie. That's a step up from those early attempts to appeal to the Christian-theme market.
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