There have been a few films about abortion released in recent years from varying points of view. Mostly about the impact when there is no choice for a woman to make about her own body. After the right to a safe abortion was stripped away from the women of America in June 2022, there was an outcry not just across the nation but the world. While there are still countries that do not allow safe abortions, the spotlight was moved on to America more so because the right was granted in 1973 and now the country has reverted backwards. Call Jane tells a moving and important story that should feel triumphant by the end but instead there is a sense of great loss.
In Chicago, 1968, content housewife Joy is happily married with a teenage daughter when she finds out that her latest pregnancy is endangering her life. The only way to keep Joy alive is to have an abortion which the all-male board of the hospital deny her. Desperate, she tries to have an abortion illegally but instead happens on a notice that says ‘Pregnant and don't want to be? Call Jane'. After having the procedure done safely, Joy is drawn to the group of activists who seek to help as many women as possible. But as abortion is still illegal, Joy understands and takes the risks, becoming an integral part of the organisation.
Thankfully, talking about abortion and a woman's choice what she does with her body is less of a taboo subject but its still quite shocking to see how callously this human right is cast aside. There is quiet outrage simmering throughout the film; at how a hospital would let Joy die in favour of a baby. When the collective can only help out the women who have the money to pay for the doctor. When Joy is met with outrage from her family when they realise what she does and who the Jane Collective are. But like most things, time heals this anger and turns to hope which is something you can hold on to. This is reflected in the Janes Collective and mostly in Joy, who goes through the biggest development. This is seen in her demeanour and determination to do what is right, a change that proves that anyone can step up and help.
There are many stories to tell when it comes to this subject matter, far too many and it's difficult to cram all these important points of view into one film. Call Jane is about Joy's journey and touches upon the wider picture and the Janes Collective. So, while some might complain that Black women and other minorities are not at the forefront of this story or barely get a look in, this is what the organisation was in 1968, there was only one black woman in the group who did make a point about the women they helped. There needs to a story or film that focuses on their stories and not tacked on to another.
The film boasts an excellent cast. Elizabeth Banks is perfectly cast as the prim and proper housewife who learns there is more to life than being in the kitchen. She has other strengths and skills and is determined to use them. Sigourney Weaver is great here too as the weathered leader Virginia and feels as home as the activist that helped found the collective.
Director Phyllis Nagy takes care all the way through to make sure the story is authentic as possible, in particular the medical procedures and it shows. It's a truly inspiring film that does uplift the spirits even if it's just until the realisation of the current climate sinks in.
Call Jane screened at BFI London Film Festival and will released in UK cinemas 4th November 2022