Hannah (Rachel Hendrix) has suffered from a host of afflictions over the course of her childhood, including asthma, seizures and multiple hip surgeries. Besides her physical ailments, the poor girl has unfortunately been haunted mentally by a nagging sense of feeling unwanted, despite being raised by a couple of very loving parents (John Schneider and Jennifer Price).
Everything comes to a head during her freshman year in college, after she collapses on stage while performing in a school play. Her parents rush to campus where they inform her doctor (Lance E. Nichols) in the infirmary that their daughter has considered committing suicide.
Hannah’s dismay upon learning that her folks had invaded her privacy by reading her diary is forgotten as soon as they proceed to make an even more shocking revelation. For not only do they subsequently announce that she had been adopted, but that she had miraculously survived an attempted abortion when her mother was only 24 weeks pregnant.
That bombshell triggers an explosion of emotions inside Hannah ranging from bewilderment to desperation to rage. But at least she finally has an idea why she’s been so sickly and saddled with emotional trauma all her life.
Next, the understandably-anguished teenager demands a copy of her birth certificate before deciding to track down her biological mother over Spring Break.
And, accompanied by her supportive best friend, Jason (Jason Burkey), she sets out on a spiritual sojourn via Volkswagen bus to Mobile, Alabama in quest of self-discovery and perhaps closure.
This is the compelling point of departure of “October Baby,” a modern morality play co-directed by Jon and Andrew Erwin. The brothers, who admittedly “never knew there was such a thing as an abortion survivor,” were inspired to make the movie after learning about the real-life ordeal of Gianna Jessen.
While I suspect that the Erwins aren’t the only ones previously unfamiliar with the phenomenon, their moving tearjerker will undoubtedly go a long way towards spreading the word. The principal cast comprises mostly relative unknowns, as well as a couple of familiar faces from TV in John Schneider (“The Dukes of Hazzard”) and Jasmine Guy (“A Different World”).
Though unabashedly pro-life in point-of-view, “October Baby” is nonetheless an apolitical coming-of-age adventure apt to touch the hearts of audience members on either side of the abortion issue. A faith-based parable bringing to mind Psalm 139:16’s sobering message: “You saw me before I was born.”
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes.
Running time: 107 minutes
Studio: Provident Films
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films