Director: Chuck Konzelman, Cary Solomon
Screenwriters: Chuck Konzelman, Cary Solomon
Starring: Ashley Bratcher, Brooks Ryan, Robia Scott
My first note on this film is, “Terrible fake Texas license plate.” That would turn out to be the least of my worries, though it is emblematic of the film as a whole; a poorly reconstructed facsimile of reality.
The latest installment in PureFlix’s unofficial culture wars series is Unplanned, a story taken from the memoirs of a women’s healthcare worker named Abby Johnson who very suddenly became an anti-abortion advocate. Here are three contemporary articles (published from 2009-2010) that focus on the accuracy of her account. I’ll summarize them briefly: bullshit.
The film is basically a piece of propaganda for people who are either already anti-abortion or who have no sceptical filter. Right off the bat, we watch an evil doctor and nurse abort a fetus. The nurse calls the fetus a “thirteen-weeker” like she’s describing a fish she caught, and the doctor says, “Beam me up, Scotty,” in a maniacal tone as he’s about to begin the procedure like most professional doctors do. The film shows the fetus struggling and fighting as it’s getting sucked into what looks like a blender for baby smoothies, even though later the film claims Planned Parenthood has to reassemble the body parts…
What the filmmakers expected to be powerful and moving ends up being more often strange because of the lens they and their target audience see it through. People that are pro-choice are all unfeeling monsters that crave the blood of the unborn, which is encapsulated in Abby’s boss; a Planned Parenthood executive that wants to kill every baby conceived for money.
While many pro-choice arguments are touched upon, such moments feel hollow (which is the perspective of the filmmakers, I suppose). They rattle off lines about women’s rights and ask what the difference is between an eight-week and twenty-four-week fetus (apparently no development happens over those sixteen weeks), but they never actually get into a real, meaty philosophical discussion. Towards the end, Abby (who has two abortions over the course of the film) says she, “sacrificed her babies on the altar of convenience,” which betrays the film’s lack of understanding or empathy for women who aren’t in a position to raise a child. However, the film is sure to try and differentiate between “good” anti-abortion protesters and “bad” ones (spoiler, they do a bad job, they even bring up the Christian anti-abortion activist that killed George Tiller in church), but the only normal pro-choice advocate is Abby. Her goal is to make her facility a safe and quality place for women’s healthcare, an admirable goal that the film scoffs at through Abby’s mother.
From a simple ‘movie as constructed piece’ point of view, the plot’s construction is terrible. It starts at the abortion, travels back in time eight years, then another two years, then an indiscriminate amount of time passes until a title card tells us that it’s four years later, and I’m left doing calculations in my head trying to understand where we are in time. Why couldn’t the film start with Abby’s first abortion, which is the whole reason we went back ten years in time? Why can’t every transition in time have a year at the bottom of the frame to indicate a passage? It also has a Return of the King ending that lingers long past what should have been the climax of the film because the filmmakers didn’t realize you could just not put stuff in the movie. This may be one of the most poorly edited films I’ve ever seen.
There’s a lot of crazy packed into this movie, like a guy praying over a barrel of disposed fetuses, an invocation of right-wing boogeyman George Soros, Abby and her boss playing with little fetal arms and legs with delighted fascination, and a chemically induced abortion of an eight-week fetus (which is roughly the size of a human fist according to the filmmakers) that plays out like the exorcism scene in any possession movie. Also, the film mixes up correlation and causation when it says that praying outside of abortion clinics lowers the amount of abortions; had they ever considered it was their presence and not the particular action they took?
Unplanned is basically a Gish gallop caught on film and, while there are plenty of people more qualified myself to actually debunk the information and presentation of real events, what I can tell you is that it’s hard to watch this film knowing that there are people who will come out of it completely accepting everything it presents as fact without taking a chance to critically engage with it or even put together a small amount of research.