Starring: Rachel Hendrix, John Schneider, Jason Burkey
Directed by: Andrew and Jon Erwin (debut)
Written by: Jon Erwin (debut) and Theresa Preston (debut)
After it is finally revealed that not only is she adopted, but that she is the survivor of an attempted abortion, Hannah (Rachel Hendrix) goes on a journey with friends to find her birthmother and more answers in “October Baby,” an agenda-driven drama straight out of a Lifetime movie catalog.
Newcomer Hendrix stars in her first feature and is actually quite good. Many of the scenes in the film require Hendrix to show some emotional range and she does it effortlessly. John Schneider, who plays Hannah’s father, also gives an honest and strong performance. After that, the rest of the supporting cast goes downhill in a hurry. In particular, there are two characters written into the film for comic relief. The problem is, there isn’t a laugh to be had between the two. The duo is actually borderline painful to watch.
But the lack of humor doesn’t necessarily lie on the shoulders of the actors. The screenplay penned by Jon Erwin and Theresa Preston is overbearing and lazy. The dialogue tends to be heavy handed, especially in the parts that are supposed to really hit the audience hard. But even beyond that, there are inexplicable actions by so many characters that defy logic. For example, on multiple occasions, Hannah meets apparently the most forgiving cops in the country and is able to get away with literally breaking the law (one of them even being a felony) by simply explaining the circumstances of her journey.
While the themes are not too aggressive, directors Andrew and Jon Erwin don’t exactly try to mask the fact that their film has specific intentions. You don’t have to look much further than the reports of church groups buying blocks of tickets or the strategic slow release through the Bible Belt to realize that this is a Christian-based film preaching pro-life views. The film also doesn’t shy away from vivid descriptions of the procedure that Hannah survived, which is strange considering that most of this movie feels like it is being marketed to families with conservative values.
The final 30 minutes of the film play out shamelessly, practically begging the audience to shed tears. It’s something that plagues the entire film, with every dramatic scene punctuated with a sappy, over-the-top piano score. It’s not just a quick few notes either. There are full on extended monologues with cheesy musical accompaniment. It may spark controversy with its message, but politics aside, in the end “October Baby” just isn’t engrossing.