When it comes to looking at a film like Unplanned, the controversial anti-abortion film that screened last weekend at Paramount Theatre, there are two metrics that need to be considered.
The first is its artistry, or how well it works as a piece of filmmaking.
The second is its accuracy, as it’s a film supposedly based on a true story.
Unplanned fails in both of these metrics.
Let’s talk about the filmmaking first.
Unplanned tells the story of Abby Johnson, a woman who worked as the clinic director of a Planned Parenthood in Texas for eight years before quitting her job and becoming an anti-abortion activist.
She’s played in the film by Ashley Bratcher, who delivers a perfectly fine performance alongside other generally adequate actors, which is to say no one is really spectacular.
At the bottom end, though, would be Brooks Ryan, who plays her husband Doug, a character that only seems to exist to be right about everything.
Honestly, there’s a truly bizarre scene in which Doug, entirely out of the blue and for no apparent reason, asks his wife Abby, “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?”
Of course she thinks this is weird, and assures him she is not, but the next day she goes to work and gets a pregnancy test kit and, holy cow, she’s pregnant!
That’s it! That’s the scene! I don’t know why it was there, except that they had to come up with some way to tell the story that Abby gets pregnant at that point in time.
Apparently having a woman realize that for herself would just be too weird, I guess.
Anyway, I digress.
The storytelling bounces around in time in an utterly confusing fashion. It opens on the moment that Abby claims sparked her decision to leave Planned Parenthood: her assisting in an ultrasound guided abortion. It then jumps into the past eight years to show how she first became involved with the organization.
After some time in the past, it jumps ahead four years, at which point I had no idea what the date was anymore, until the story caught up with the opening moments again.
Planned Parenthood employees are depicted as everything from carelessly glib to actively cruel to, in the case of Robia Scott’s Cheryl, Abby’s boss at Planned Parenthood, cartoonishly evil.
The only other characters that are depicted in a negative light are Abby’s parents, who treat their daughter terribly over and over again because of her work at Planned Parenthood. Except I’m pretty sure their attitude is meant to be seen as entirely defensible.
So, yeah, it’s not a good movie, but even worse, it’s of questionable accuracy.
That scene at the start of the movie, where Abby participates in an ultrasound-led abortion? Well, the reason it inspires her to leave is because, as she’s running the ultrasound, she watches as the fetus reacts to attempted abortion, struggling and fighting to remain alive.
It’s a legitimately horrifying scene and you might understand why it might make someone change their mind about their work. There’s just two problems with this.
First, the abortion may not have ever happened in the first place. There were no ultrasound-led abortions scheduled for the day Abby said it happened, and doctors at the clinic said Abby had never assisted during an abortion procedure.
But even if the abortion had taken place, doctors have explained that the fetus couldn’t have reacted that way. At 13-weeks, not only could it not have felt pain, it would have been unable to make purposeful movements.
Unplanned is a weird piece of propaganda. It’s a film that’s preaching to the choir. The anti-abortion message of the film isn’t going to change too many minds because the only people watching it are the ones already on its side.