If I’m honest, I don’t really like Christian movies. I’ve seen a few, and while I usually get something personal out of it and I find it edifying for my own faith, I still cringe every time I watch one. There’s just something about the forced message, or the acting, that diminishes the messages power. Or maybe it’s the portrayal of the Gospel that sometimes seems weak. I wish that Christians in the film industry would make something truly artful, that the message behind a compelling a story was more subtle, and that a “Christian movie” could be disguised as mainstream in order to reach a wider audience.
I went into the theater for Unplanned with this in mind. However, this particular “Christian movie” is far more compelling than any other Christian movie I’ve seen before? Why? Because it’s about abortion. Abortion is the silent genocide of our day. In a culture that prides itself in fighting for equal rights this particular issue has gone by the wayside and only the “pro-lifers” care to fight for the rights of the babies in the womb.
This movie is more than just a Christian movie right now. It’s a cry for our culture to wake up and recognize that we are silently killing off our own human race for the sake of convenience, for the sake of ‘women’s rights’, for the sake of personal freedom. If this movie helps save any lives at all who could have been lost to abortion I will be all for that.
So here’s my honest reaction to seeing the movie Unplanned. Did it have Christian movie cringe-worthy moments? Keep reading to find out.
The movie was incredibly powerful and emotional. I expected this and was not disappointed. Abby Johnson’s real life story is incredibly eye opening and she was the perfect person to base a movie like this off of. Right away you are drawn into her life and her story and the ride is heart-wrenching and thrilling all at the same time.
I didn’t care for the pacing of the movie or the initial narration. I think the story could have been told just as well without the narration in the beginning. The flashbacks were a bit confusing to me and I was left wanting more details about certain events of her life because I didn’t catch which event happened when.
Along with the pacing of the movie is the editing. The main story is centered around Abby’s “conversion” if you will regarding her complacent and pro-choice stance to the total opposite. However, once the conversion takes place she has to take action. This is where the pacing felt off to me. The court trial was anticlimactic. I felt like that could have been the driving event of the entire movie. I’m sure during the process Abby was forced to recall many details of her past, even if it wasn’t directly brought up in court. I wished there was a courtroom scene where we saw everyone in there together hashing it out in front of a judge but we didn’t get to see any of that at all. Just “this isn’t over” from Abby’s Planned Parenthood boss, Cheryl. That was just a bit anticlimactic for me. I think it also would have been fun to see Abby being depicted in the many interviews she did on TV with various news hosts. But instead, the movie ends after the Planned Parenthood clinic she used to run closes.
Let’s talk about the acting. The actress who played Abby Johnson did a stellar job. I felt her performance was convincing and moving. If you look her up online you will quickly find interviews and videos of her explaining how AFTER she accepted the role, knowing that Hollywood might blacklist her from any future gigs, she found out that her mom had almost aborted her. The actresses mother was in the clinic room on the table and suddenly had a change of heart and walked out. If that doesn’t give you chills I don’t know what will. Clearly, God knew from the very start, that this actress would have her own powerful story to share as she stepped into a vital movie-role for the pro-life movement. Was that unplanned? I think not.
The woman who played Cheryl (the Planned Parenthood boss) also did a phenomenal job depicting this character. She was fierce, intimidating, and evil. I do not know what this woman in real life is like but I can infer that this character was used as a representation of Planned Parenthood as a whole. The organization, when it comes down to it, is hungry for profits not hungry to help women in need. The abortion industry is a business and the movie did a fair job explaining the ins and outs of what that actually looks like. Cheryl at first, draws Abby in and prunes her for advancement but then when betrayed tries everything to devour her.
As far as the rest of the characters, most of them supporting, they were okay. I actually felt like the rest of the Planned Parenthood workers were very believable too. They were warm and friendly and seemed completely naive that they might be doing anything wrong by working in the abortion industry. I was glad they were depicted this way. Abby’s family was okay in the film too. The protesters and 40 days for life crew were okay too.
Speaking of the protesters. The movie was honest in showing that some people on the pro-life side carry their position poorly. Shouting at fences, holding up bloody images, spewing condemnations at vulnerable women, etc… none of those things are effective or helpful! Then, the people who were with the organization “40 days for life” were the opposite, they were gentle and kind and not condescending and not approving of the other style of protest.
I like that they made this point to show the difference because just like we hope for our world to wake up to the atrocity of abortion, the pro-life camp needs to also wake up to where we’re getting it wrong. Where are our words or actions more hurtful than helpful? We need to be able to see our weakness in order to grow stronger. Pro-choice people who are thinking of changing their stance will be more inclined to do so if they don’t see us as condemning.
As far as any cheesy Christian movie moments? There were a few. I felt like a lot of the pro-life characters (the people with 40 days for life and Abby’s family) were a little flat. They just were not very interesting or compelling to watch. The acting was mediocre and I wished there had been more raw emotion. Some of those scenes just seemed very scripted and I was very aware I was watching a written-for-the-screen movie. When you watch a movie you want to get lost in the story and forget that you’re watching a movie, but unfortunately I didn’t feel that way the entire the time (sometimes I did – like during the abortion scenes). I also felt that everyone in this movie looked too good all the time. Most of the hairstyles were all the same (not everyone in real life curls their long hair the same way every single day) and the clothing and make-up looked way too polished to feel believable. It’s okay to have actors ‘look normal’ in a movie and not be so put together. I don’t know why this bothers me but it does. Everyone looked too pretty and it bugged me.
Now, I would like to address the most controversial aspect of this film, the reason it has an R rating: the abortion scenes. There are a few of them. I am only going to address the most memorable ones for myself as a viewer. One scene is when Abby Johnson undergoes a chemical abortion. Basically, she takes some pills that induce labor and what follows is a grisly scene in her home bathroom where she endures a traumatic passing of the fetus.
The other scene is the one surrounding her “conversion” where she witnesses an ultrasound guided abortion on the monitor. What the previews don’t show you is that you see the blood being sucked through a tube. It’s actually hard for me to write that and think about it too much because it makes me feel sick.
I believe these scenes (and others) are appropriate to warrant an R rating. If you don’t have a strong stomach, don’t see the movie. If you want to understand the reality of what an abortion actually looks like, see the movie. I would argue that, in today’s culture, it is better to be fully aware and exposed to what an abortion is than to not be. So, see the movie, because this is important.
Watching these scenes gave me a better understanding of the trauma that a woman goes through when undergoing an abortion (any kind too!) and I feel more compassion and heartache for their experiences. I hope that this movie can help give women something to relate to and that it can bring them some healing.
I found it interesting that on IMDB the R rating for Unplanned says it is for “some disturbing/bloody images”. Yes, that’s true – it is disturbing and bloody. However, for the movie Hacksaw Ridge it is rated R for “intense prolonged realistically graphic” war scenes (I’ve seen this movie so I can attest to the truth of this statement), “including grisly bloody images”. Maybe it’s just me, but I would describe the abortion scenes in Unplanned as grisly. They are not “prolonged” but they certainly are “realistically graphic”.
There was also one scene in particular where the writers had a perfect opportunity to explain the Gospel. I believe it was a scene where Abby is asking her husband how God could ever forgive her. His response was simple, “Because He is God.” It’s not that this isn’t true… but it was a perfect moment to talk about Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us and that His blood covers our sin! But…I guess that would have been too much Christian propaganda for an already intense film? I don’t know…but it was disappointing not to have taken advantage of that perfect opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus. Oh well… *facepalm*
If you want to read an interesting Pro-Choice Review start here. If you want to go read some real haters just go to google, you’ll find a bunch pretty easily.
I’m going to wrap up this blog – I know it is long. I know it isn’t very polished either but I really wanted to share my thoughts on this movie and wanted to do it sooner than later.
Nick and I would like to see the movie again sometime and write something a little more polished and detailed. It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve seen it now so the content isn’t as fresh. Next time we see it I will take a few notes. Even though I had a few criticisms of the movie I believe the pros far outweigh the cons. This movie is a powerful story, a true story, and it has been and will continue proving to a pivotal tool in helping to save the future of our children, helping bring healing to post-abortive women, and helping abortion industry workers to get out of their field and also find healing. I hope you go see the movie and would love to know what you think.