4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days ★★★★½

Film #88 that was recommended to me -- now subject to loose, arbitrary ranking! (Recommended by Grayson)

Well damn, this wasn't a fun watch at all. I'm in the mood to be blunt about a controversial topic, so let's come out swinging. I'm all for subjective readings and people bringing parts of themselves into their interpretations, and don't like to call anything that has some sort of backing "wrong." So we'll stop short of claiming I have some objective truth here. Yet I still get grumpier and more insistent when the subject is particularly political or related to people's rights, so I want to examine the tendency of many reviewers here to see this movie as neutral on the subject of abortion. You ask me, that points to a personally centrist attitude projecting onto the film.

I agree that there is some quite unpleasant imagery in this movie, absolutely. The shocking visual that we're given seems to be much of the focus when people assert that it isn't taking sides. However, this is a movie that aims to be entirely realistic and unflinching about the truth of this scenario, and THAT image just furthers its goals. This isn't about the horror of abortion -- it's about the horror of unsafe, unregulated, secretive, black market abortions. Would anyone like to maybe tell me which medical procedures would look appealing when performed by a random condescending dude of unknown qualifications in a hotel room, all the while both aware that you can't get medical help if something goes wrong, and that you are risking imprisonment?

Look, no one desires abortion. That's a wild strawman to pretend anyone specifically wants more abortions rather than safe access to them. Funny how the anti-abortion people either don't care or are actively opposed to less punitive measures shown to reduce the rate of abortions. But abortion can be less negative than the alternative, and it's a necessary procedure to have as an option for preserving one's bodily autonomy. When you criminalize abortion you don't get the elimination of abortions, you get this. The procedure moves out of the hands of medical professionals and into the wild, where women are routinely taken advantage of, may or may not have the procedure performed correctly, and have one of the hardest decisions of their lives made infinitely worse by stacking the consequences and guilt harder against them. THAT is the reason we get the grotesque image. It's not about showing us the disgusting truth of abortion, it's about making us take a serious look at the kind of thing a woman getting one of these illegal abortions has to see and handle herself. Doctors are used to this stuff; people doing this on their own aren't and it can be traumatic to handle when you don't have professional help, compounded by an entire society demonizing you.

Further, what is it that people who think this is a neutral look at abortion think the movie is telling us? This isn't some surveillance camera footage; we can't be neutral about the whole world. Well, it seems that they posit it's all representative of the harsh constraints an authoritarian state puts on its citizens. And yes, I agree, that is a major topic; we follow a woman in this film in a few other contexts and there is an ever-present (often patriarchal) force restricting her actions. But it can't be only that. If someone wished to "just" show their disdain for repressive societies, why specifically choose the perspective of women struggling to get an abortion? The fact that they have these dangerous hoops to jump through (in getting an abortion) literally is the reason the society is bad. Isn't that self-evident? You clearly can't critique their lack of access, even as part of a larger whole, while somehow being non-committal on the topic.

So this movie wants women to have access to abortions performed safely by professionals, and that is great, it is correct to want that! While you're here, the movie is really good, too. Sometimes I talk about stuff like that in reviews if I find the time. It plays out in these excruciatingly still long takes, almost taking the style of slow cinema and applying it to a subject matter that is so fraught that the movie becomes tense and nerve-wracking without utilizing a single technique we'd usually associate with those feelings. Despite being so straightforward about its subject matter, nothing feels too on-the-nose, as every actor and plot development is totally naturalistic. I'd be willing to believe I was viewing real people. It hooked me almost immediately, and the two hours flew by. Couldn't recommend it more.

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