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Call Jane (A Movie Review)

CALL JANE (2022)

Starring Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver, Chris Messina, Kate Mara, Wunmi Mosaku, Cory Michael Smith, Grace Edwards, John Magaro, Aida Turturro, Bianca D’Ambrosio, Bruce MacVittie, Rebecca Henderson, Maia Scalia, Sean King and Alison Jaye.

Screenplay by Hayley Schore and Roshan Sethi.

Directed by Phyllis Nagy.

Distributed by Roadside Attractions. 121 minutes. Rated R.

Screened at the 2022 Philadelphia Film Festival.

For better or worse, Call Jane is one of the timeliest films to come out in recent months. In fact, it is even more vital than it was even when it was conceived. In a new United States where Roe vs. Wade has been struck down by the Supreme Court, Call Jane is a stark reminder of where we were before that ruling was made and what has been lost.

It takes us back to a world in which back-alley abortions and even more desperate measures were used to terminate an unwanted or medically unsafe pregnancy.

“Just throw yourself down the stairs, that’s what I did,” is one of the pieces of advice offered to Joy (Elizabeth Banks), an aging middle-class suburban housewife who was actually thrilled to find of her pregnancy, at least until her doctor explained to her that she probably would not survive the childbirth. Then she entered a morass of red tape, bureaucracy and dead ends trying to save her own life in a world where the laws counted the baby’s life above her own.

Unlike so many women of the time, Joy actually found a safe space – well, relatively safe – in the work of the Janes, a covert group of women had bonded together to provide safe abortions. (Well, again, relatively safe.) After having the procedure, Joy finds herself surprisingly becoming more and more involved in the group and the pro-choice movement.

It’s a very politically fraught subject, and Call Jane tackles the controversial story with tact and restraint. In a recent interview I did with director Phyllis Nagy, she said it was important to her “to make a film about something very serious with a light touch.”

Call Jane is not necessarily pro-abortion – it acknowledges anti-abortion positions as well – however it is pro-safe-abortions and pro women’s rights.

In a world where that is once again becoming rarer, it is important that we remember where we were before Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land. There are a whole series of draconian laws being suggested where older white guys decide what a woman can do with her body.

Dr. Mehmet Oz said just the other night in a Pennsylvania Senatorial Debate that the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy should be made by “women, doctors, local political leaders.” Of course, many of those same people can afford to get the abortions that they are denying the average woman. (We’re looking at you, Herschel Walker.)

Call Jane reminds us that the cold hard fact is that no one wants to get an abortion. It is a traumatic decision for anyone involved. However, sometimes it is necessary, and in those cases, it should be as safe as possible.

Sometimes we have to look back at the past to see the future. Call Jane does a very nice job of showing us where we have been – where we may be again very soon – and why we all have to get out and vote.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: October 27, 2022.


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