By JANE WILSON, Special To The Bulletin | Published March 15, 2012
The slogan for “October Baby” is “every life is beautiful,” and that is the clear message that filmmakers John Erwin and Andrew Erwin put forth in this new film. The Erwin brothers present a message of hope, purpose and forgiveness that will certainly resonate with a Catholic audience.
“October Baby” is the story of Hannah Lawson, a young college student.
After Hannah mysteriously collapses during a school play, she discovers that her lifetime of medical issues actually stems from her difficult birth. She learns that she was born prematurely, at 24 weeks, following a failed abortion. She also finds out that she was adopted and that the parents she always believed were her biological parents actually adopted her after her birth mother abandoned her. Upset, disillusioned and disoriented, Hannah decides to go on spring break with her best friend Jason and his crowd. Along the way, she hopes to visit the hospital where she was born and possibly track down her birth mother.
Rachel Hendrix and Jason Burkey star in a scene from the movie “October Baby.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Samuel Goldwyn Films)
What follows is a voyage of discovery for the young woman, who learns more than she bargained for about her origins and how she came to the life she leads. Along the way, she discovers the value of love and family, and most of all, the power of forgiveness. At the end of the film, Hannah, her parents, and Jason will never be the same.
With a story based on Christian beliefs and characters who demonstrate strong moral values, “October Baby” clearly offers a positive message for its audience. Hannah learns to value her own life and appreciate the parents who wanted her, even as she forgives the birth mother who did not. Her quest resonates with the people she meets along her journey—the nurse who assisted at her birth, a police officer who helps her on her way, and her biological parent who repudiates her.
While the script and the message are everything they should be—positive, moral, purposeful—the film is, at times, a little too somber for its own good. The overall tone of the film is unrelentingly solemn, and the characters are a little too grim to be entirely sympathetic. The filmmakers keep pushing the message that this is “serious business,” when a lighter hand could have been helpful. For example, set against Hannah’s earnest search for her past, the scenes with the spring breakers are meant to be lighthearted relief, but they fall flat because of the overall tone of the film.
“October Baby” rests on the shoulders of young Rachel Hendrix, who does a very creditable job in the role of Hannah. Like the film, Hannah’s character can be overly fixated on her quest, to the point that she can disregard the feelings of those around her, but the actress is able to maintain a quiet radiance and respect. She is also lucky to be surrounded by a fine supporting cast. Jason Burkey slips easily into the role of Hannah’s long-suffering friend Jason. Whether it is the steadfastness of the good-guy character or Burkey’s own charm, he comes across as the most likeable character in the film.
Perhaps the most difficult role is that of Jacob Lawson, Hannah’s overprotective adoptive father. As played by veteran (and former Atlantan) John Schneider, Jacob never deteriorates into a caricature. Even when he is being unreasonable, such as he is when he confronts Hannah’s friends, Schneider makes Jacob into a sympathetic character, who knows the devastation life can hold and who just wants his daughter to be happy and healthy. By the end, though, he has learned that he cannot protect Hannah from all pain. Sometimes he just has to support her. Jennifer Price as Hannah’s adoptive mother, Jasmine Guy as the nurse, and Tracy Miller as the sympathetic police officer round out the strong supporting cast.
“October Baby” has much to recommend it: an interesting story, a strong cast, and a compelling message. It illustrates the power of love and forgiveness and does, indeed, show the audience that every life is beautiful.