Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Andrew Erwin
|Produced by||Dan Atchison
|Screenplay by||Cecil Stokes
|Music by||Paul Mills|
|Edited by||Andrew Erwin|
|Distributed by||Provident Films
Samuel Goldwyn Films
|Box office||$Lifetime Gross: $5,357,328|
October Baby is a 2011 American Christian-themed dramatic film directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin and starring Rachel Hendrix in her film debut. It is the story of a woman named Hannah, who learns as a young adult that she survived a failed abortion attempt. She then embarks upon a road trip to understand the circumstances of her birth. October Baby was inspired by a YouTube video chronicling the life experiences of abortion survivor Gianna Jessen.
Hannah (Rachel Hendrix) is a 19-year-old college freshman who suffers from epilepsy, asthma and depression. On the verge of her theatrical debut in a university play, she suddenly collapses on stage. After a variety of tests, Hannah meets with her parents (John Schneider and Jennifer Price) and a doctor from the hospital where her father works. The doctor quotes passages from Hannah's journal that reveal that she has been feeling lost and unwanted. In the heated exchange that ensues, she learns not only that she is adopted, but that her biological mother had tried to abort her.
Hannah experiences a range of emotions from confusion, to anger, to desperation and seeks out her best friend, Jason (Jason Burkey), for advice. After sorting through her feelings and her options with Jason, she decides to find her birth mother. Jason invites her to go on a trip for spring break with a group of his friends who are going to New Orleans, Louisiana. Hannah's father, Jacob Lawson forbids her to go, because of her illness. He says he trusts her to make the right decision, regardless of his opinion. Hannah decides to go because she says she wants "answers to all these questions about who [she is]." She sets out on a journey that leads her to her birthplace, Mobile, Alabama. While staying at a hotel overnight, Jason's girlfriend Alanna (Colleen Trusler) says some hurtful things to Hannah, who eventually leaves when told that Jason didn't want her to come on the trip. Jason decides to help her find the hospital where she was born. Upon arriving, they find it has been vacant for years and is locked up. Hannah pries the back door open, and she and Jason are arrested. The sheriff, however, allows them to go when she tells him her reason for trying to get in. He gives her the name and address of the nurse who signed her birth certificate. She locates the nurse (Jasmine Guy) who assisted in the abortion, and they have an emotional encounter while the nurse describes the circumstances behind not only her birth, but that of her twin brother, whom she knew nothing about. She leaves the nurse's apartment knowing not only the new (changed) name of her birth mother but where she works.
When she finally meets her biological mother (Shari Rigby), she is overwhelmed by anger and hatred because of her mother's rejection. Just then, her father arrives to take her home, having found out she lied to him about being with others beside Jason, and also about checking in with her doctor while traveling. He also discovers their arrest for breaking and entering. He tells Jason he is not permitted to visit, call, or interact with Hannah because he had lied about what they were doing. Jason returns to the hotel where the rest of the college friends are staying. He breaks up with his girlfriend, Alanna, after she apologizes for her cruel actions, and returns home. He phones Hannah's father and apologizes for lying.
Hannah's adopted parents also go through their own pain and suffering, deciding to tell Hannah the details of their choice to adopt both her and her brother, who died months later. Her mother relates to her that she had been pregnant with twins and lost them at 24 weeks. They'd then seen an adoption request for Hannah and her brother at a pregnancy crisis center where she had volunteered.
Hannah wanders aimlessly until she sees a Catholic Church and goes in. She seeks consolation from a priest (Rodney Clark). He says to her: "Because we have been forgiven by God, we should forgive each other. In Jesus, you are forgiven, and, because you are forgiven, you have the power to forgive, to choose to forgive. Let it go. Hatred is a burden you no longer need to carry. Only in forgiveness can you be free, Hannah—forgiveness that is well beyond your grasp, or mine, a forgiveness that you can’t find on a trip or even in this cathedral. But, if the Son shall set you free, you will be free indeed." Hannah experiences an epiphany and finds she is able to forgive her biological mother and forget about the botched abortion.
Jason takes Hannah back to the theater where she'd collapsed and says they should finish the play together. Hannah begins to realize he wants to be more than a friend and starts to fall in love. The movie ends with them leaving to go to their college dorms. Hannah hugs both her parents and thanks them for wanting her when no one else did. She is last seen smiling proudly at her father and holding Jason's hand.
- Rachel Hendrix as Hannah
- Jason Burkey as Jason
- John Schneider as Jacob
- Jasmine Guy as Nurse Mary
- Robert Amaya as Beach Cop
- Maria Atchison as Secretary Pat
- Joy Brunson as Danielle
- Rodney Clark as Priest
- Brian Gall as Rent-a-Cop
- Carl Maguire as Lance
- Tracy Miller as Officer Mitchell
- Lance E. Nichols as Doctor
- Jennifer Price as Grace
- Shari Rigby as Cynthia (as Shari Wiedmann)
- Don Sandley as Psychiatrist
- Chris Sligh as B-Mac
- Austin Johnson as Trueman
- Colleen Trusler as Alanna
Production and release
The film was inspired by a YouTube video chronicling the experiences of Gianna Jessen. At a preview of the film at the Heritage Foundation, director Jon Erwin stated that prior to making the film he "never knew there was such a thing as an abortion survivor." He decided to make the film after Christian filmmaker Alex Kendrick challenged him: "What is your purpose?"
October Baby had a limited release on October 28, 2011, in the states of Alabama and Mississippi and the city of Memphis. One reason a limited release was favored over a wide release was to highlight an upcoming ballot initiative, Measure 25, a Mississippi personhood amendment to determine if life begins at conception (the initiative failed). The U.S. national release was scheduled for March 23 in approximately 360 theatres. The Hunger Games was expected to release at the same time on ten times as many screens. When asked how the film would fare against this daunting competition, Rachel Hendrix said, "there will be all these teenage girls waiting in line to see 'Hunger Games,' and they'll see the poster for 'October Baby,' and they'll want to go see our movie, too."
The film, which is being released by the Samuel Goldwyn Co., is expected to expand into 200 or more new locations on April 13. “And the good news is that we have retained all of our theaters” from the first weekend, said Meyer Gottlieb, Goldwyn’s president. Released on DVD September 11, 2012. Eric Wilson wrote a novel based on the film which was released September 2012.
The film received poor reviews from critics, scoring a 22% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 36 reviews and an average rating of 4.4/10. However, the film received an 82% favorable rating among non-critic Rotten Tomato users based on 31,118 user ratings and an average rating of 3.5/5  It also found some praise within the media. Gary Goldstein in the Los Angeles Times wrote that October Baby is "a film whose poignancy is hard to deny whatever side of the abortion debate you fall on." While he found fault with the script, he praised Jasmine Guy's performance, saying she was "superb in one beautifully wrought scene as the ex-abortion clinic nurse who later witnessed Hannah's birth." Roger Ebert also praised Guy's performance, but overall found the film wanting, writing: "the film as a whole is amateurish and ungainly, can't find a consistent tone, is too long, ... and is photographed with too many beauty shots that slow the progress." Allison Willmore in The A.V. Club described the film as a "virulent pro-life tract" and "revenge fantasy" that, rather than being a film, is "propaganda for the already converted." She particularly criticized the film's medical claims, saying that it depicted late-term abortion and poor conditions in abortion clinics as the norm.
The film's pro-life message was received well by pro-life organizations. Endorsements include Ron Anger, Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick, Dennis Rainey, Richard Land, Ted Baehr and Charmaine Yoest. Joni Hannihan of the Florida Baptist Witness wrote, "the movie sends strong messages about the beauty of life, the importance of each life—but it’s not preachy" and found the film "young" and "refreshing." World magazine observed that the film is "polished" and "a more-than-worthy viewing experience." However, the romance between Hannah and Jason was found to be lacking in depth and one of the characters on the road trip unbelievable. But the highlight of the film was portraying "how liberating and joyous forgiveness is—both giving it and receiving it—without putting implausible, sermonizing dialogue into their characters' mouths."
The October Baby filmmakers believe the gulf between the reviewer and the ticket buyer scores dramatizes a rift between critics and conservative moviegoers. "What it tells me is that there’s a gap in values", Jon Erwin said. "There's a large group of people who don’t see their values reflected in most movies." In selecting the film for its "Worst of films of 2012" list, staff of the The A.V. Club explained that "what makes the film so insidious and upsetting is the way in which it’s understood that the reluctant birth mother deserves what she gets" and "It’s a cinematic encapsulation of a worldview in which a woman’s rights are widely understood to be secondary to those of her offspring, both in the womb and years later."
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- The Los Angeles Times[full citation needed]
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- "October Baby". Chicago Sun-Times.
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- "First Person: October Baby a refreshing film about coming of age & life's choices — Florida Baptist Witness". Gofbw.com. 2012-03-12. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
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- The Los Angeles Times
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