But make no mistake: Obvious Child wants viewers to see that abortion is normal—sad, to be sure, but not the morally fraught decision that most people intuit it is, or the emotional crisis that many women who have had an abortion say it is. The film may not be overtly political, but it is assuredly pro-choice. Strikingly, there's no mention of a fetus, much less an unborn person. The only time Donna breaks down is when she finds out having the abortion will cost $500.
And every woman in the movie—Donna, her mother, and Nellie—has had one. Carrying a baby to term simply seems beyond the imaginative bounds of Donna's world, just as having an abortion seemed beyond the imaginative bounds of the leads in Juno and Knocked Up.
In a box-office culture in which ideological battles are embedded in story—in an embodied character whose crises and well-being we viewers come to care about—Christians are wise to pay attention to Obvious Child and stories like it. They may not reflect the world as we hope it would be, a world where the most vulnerable persons, including the unborn, are protected by law and cherished by the people who create them.
But such stories certainly reflect a swath of the world we inhabit, and therefore a swath of our neighbors. If mature, discerning viewers can stomach Donna Stern "going there," I'd recommend Obvious Child to them. While I ultimately disagree with Robespierre's political aims, at the least she has provided a sometimes funny, often tender portrait of many (though not all) women who face an unplanned pregnancy.
Since we as the church are called to love women like Donna Stern, first we need to understand their hopes, dreams, fears, and obstacles. Then, after developing an authentic relationship, we might help them envision a better way.
Obvious Child is rated R for crass and consistent talk about bodily functions, sexual and scatological. The dialogue is peppered with profanity, including many creative uses of the f word. Sex outside marriage is considered normal for all characters, and given the topic at hand, it's discussed openly and frequently. We viewers see the "before" and "after" scenes of two characters having sex. We do not see them having intercourse, though we see them in their underwear. There is no male or female nudity, however. We also see the lead character being given a sedative before her abortion. The implication is clear and somewhat disturbing. Perhaps more disturbing, there are a couple irreverent jokes about the abortion, as the lead character tries to make light of a heavy situation. In one scene we see the lead character drink too much alcohol, and most characters imbibe throughout. The film is unsuitable for children or adolescents, and may be unsuitable for some adults as well.
Katelyn Beaty is Christianity Today's managing editor.