I can already feel your venomous fangs dripping to latch onto my neck after reading the title, so before I jump into actually decent pro-life films, let me say this from the beginning:
I. Am. Pro. Life.
I believe, wholeheartedly and without pause, that life begins at conception.
I believe that children, both in the womb and out, regardless of race, religion, heritage, or location, deserve wholesome care, love, family, and a home.
I also believe that capital punishment, euthanasia, torture, and forcibly separating families is an inherent evil and sin against humanity and against God.
As trite as the phrase is, I believe in womb to tomb–the complete and blanketed acknowledgement of the life of God in the Other and the utmost obligation to care for that life. Anything else short of that is not Christian, immoral, and not the least pro-life. Even if they’re Muslim. Even if they’re homosexual or transgender. Even if they’re illegal.
In regards to Abby Johnson on her own, the story she tells has been shot all to pieces by good ol’ fashioned journalism, and I am furious for so many reasons. I’m furious that she is using shock value to completely embellish–if not outright lie–in order to garner attention to her and her cause. Like I said, I’m pro-life, but I don’t support liars using exaggerated dramatic license (to say the least; if you don’t believe me, read the article I linked above) to undermine the legitimacy of fighting for the unborn. That is a topic for an entire library of posts, but for now, all I’ll say is this: I am so done with people using deception for celebrity, especially when it defrauds what should be a moral cause.
The Unplanned film is taking advantage of gore, horror, and shaming to shed light on a subject that, when addressed, should be addressed in the proper light, in honesty and truth, in true, non-judgmental committal to addressing the nuance of issues that surround women choosing to have abortions. It is not a black and white issue; just as in life, there is more than one avenue not only of explanation, but of compassion, tenderness, and love.
Now, onto the movies. (This is your one and only SPOILER ALERT!)
The reason I’ve chosen to only highlight three movies in this particular post is because I wanted to show not only the lighter side (both humor and topic-wise) of the reality of being pro-life, but also down the gradient through heart-wrenching sacrifice and pain, and downright, hellish torment.
Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the Trilogy of Pro-Life Films:
I. Love. This. Movie. For so many reasons. Even if this film didn’t address pro-life issues, it would still hold a dear place in my heart.
Here’s what I love about it:
Juno is such an oddball, and I love her for it. She is brutally honest not only about her situation when she discovers she’s pregnant, but about her interactions with the father of her child, her parents, the adoptive parents, and her friends. She is unflinchingly herself in the face of all the changes she is suddenly faced with.
Her willingness to address her own fear of carrying a child and to take what responsibility she can for it–she starts by doing what she feels is best for her situation, going to a clinic for an abortion, and then decides to carry the child after running into a SUPER awkward and adorable pro-life protestor. She doesn’t let this situation injure her resolve–she immediately looks for adoptive parents, and finds them.
Her parents and their support. They are upset at the choices that led her to getting pregnant, but they don’t throw her out on the street. They don’t cut her off without a dime. They talk about the hard choices with her, and give her what help is necessary to do the right thing. They support her and love her through it, which, despite bitter people’s reactions to this part of the movie, IS the reality that unwed mothers should be facing–not the terrible alternative.
It shows life and its hard choices (including the difficulty and awkwardness of Juno’s tenuous relationship with the adoptive father) and its consequences. It isn’t a blanketed, “ABORTION IS BAD,” but rather, “This is what life and its unexpected turns are like.” To truly be a pro-life film, you have to be willing to address ALL forms of life, and show its capacities beyond those in the womb.
2. A Quiet Place
This is not only an incredible horror film (with a different style of terror and heartbreak than most horror films can boast) but has so many layers to the storyline itself that it can fall into at least three other genres (including Sci-fi, Thriller, and Drama, although I know there are others.)
The points in this film are a bit heavier than Juno, as we are going up the gradient of the acknowledgement of life as it actually is:
This film isn’t just pro-life because the mother keeps the child even though a single noise will attract the creature that will kill it, its mother, and all around it. The entire movie is layered around the idea of family, and sacrificing your life for another. It isn’t obsessed with the life of the unborn child; it takes a magnifying glass to each of the people’s lives (including the life of the child they lost) and how that life, lived out in full-fledged color, is worth fighting for.
The heartbreak in this film is no joke. This is such an understated part of what being pro-life is actually about; not only grieving over the loss of a child, but the societal pressures and tortures that led to that child’s life being lost. There are so many moments of true, heart-clenching mourning in this movie, that highlight the fullness of life in its removal.
The parental sacrifice for their children is the peak of the pro-life theme. The end when the father dies is the most intense scene (in my opinion even more so than the birth) because of the decisions that led to his death. He stands watching his children try and hide from the monster in the truck, knowing there is no real way he can save them, and the mother is in the house watching him on the security monitors. She knows, just as he does, that there is only one real way to keep them alive, and the horror and acceptance is written all across her face. He screams, as loud as he can, to attract the monsters to him so that his children will live. The mother doesn’t intervene, knowing there wouldn’t be anything she could have done to save him or her children if she had. That is pro-life, right there. That is love. That is Christ.
(I do need to add a trigger warning here. This film deals with heavily symbolic themes in regards to religion, nature, social and political upheaval, and gritty, bloody violence–including the graphic death of a newborn baby. I won’t go into too much detail here, but enough that I want to give you fair warning beforehand.)
This one is a horror film, through and through. But much like A Quiet Place, it isn’t in the typical sense. Certainly, there are themes used in 99% of horror movies (such as brutal beatings, destruction, rioting, blood, guts, death, screaming), but its presented in an entirely different fashion, and is a movie that will be discussed both in and out of film theory classes for decades to come.
But specifically in regards to our pro-life discussion, here are the points that stand out to me (fair warning, there are a lot):
The Woman (or Mother) is portrayed and shown as the source of all life, not only in the literal sense (she conceives and bears a child), but also in the creative sense. She is the seed that is planted to grow the fruit of the Man’s (or Father’s, depending on which interpretation of the film you take) creative life and poetic escapades. She is also the one who rebuilt the actual house itself that they both live in–she designed it, decorated it, built it, maintains it, all on her own. The film frames her, both literally in the purposefully uncomfortable close-ups of her face and figuratively in the layering of the story itself, as having utmost importance and meaning. This becomes especially clear when terrible violations happen to her.
In regards to those violations, this is one pro-life aspect nearly everyone misses (or is too uncomfortable to speak of) when speaking to pro-life issues–the terrible violation, in both emotional and physical aspects, that a woman goes through even considering an abortion. Although Mother in the film doesn’t have an abortion, the events that lead to her at last conceiving a child are horrific enough, you wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d considered it. The worst of these are that a man is murdered in front of her and her husband leaves her alone in the house with the perpetrator still on the loose (and even though she begs him not to leave her alone). There are many other things, but these are comparatively the worse.
Here is where the trigger warning comes into play, and where we reach the most graphic and horrific end of our pro-life gradient. Mother does bear a son, in the literal riot and war-torn landscape of the rubble that was once her house, in torturous pain. This film doesn’t downplay labor by ANY means; her screams and cries cut through you like blades. Once she’s borne her son, the Man waits until she falls asleep to STEAL HER SON and hand him over to the crowd of hundreds of people outside, crying out for him. She runs from the room to stop them, and the baby is killed in front of her (I won’t go into details of how). They then eat the remains of the child.
There are undeniable references to Christianity (and specifically Catholicism) here, but it strips the tradition and numb action from the reality of Mass–if you truly believe you are eating the Body of Christ, you are eating flesh and blood. You are eating the Son of His mother, the woman who loved Him more than any other, the one who bore Him with all the love anyone could possibly have for their child. You are taking Him from her, chewing him up, swallowing him, while she screams and falls on her knees in reality of the carnage that bringing her Son into the world brought.
The reality of motherhood, and of the Divine motherhood, is one of this film’s many strong points. There are a plethora of biblical symbols in it, but this one specifically leads to the destructive end of the film, and the Mother’s homicidal anger. Shrieking at the top of her lungs, she takes a shard of glass and starts stabbing the people in the crowd, those whom killed and ate her son. She bore her child; she loved her child; her child was taken from her by those whom should have protected it; she watched her son eaten in a cannibalistic ritual that the Man demanded she forgive them for without any recompense or true remorse from him or the crowd (other than their pathetic whimpering). She chose the pro-life avenue; she embraced the burden of carrying, bearing, and watching her son die. And she is still beaten half-to-death by the same people who killed him. Even after she blows up the house and is left a burn-scarred mass of ash and burnt flesh, she still is called to give up her heart, the last thing she has left, and dies after the Man reaches into her chest and pulls it out.
This film is the most pro-life of the three; it goes to all lengths, and further, to show the beauty, raw humanity, and love of the Mother for her child, the gruesome reality of that burden, and how she is so easily blamed, beaten, and discarded even after she does the right thing. She is not at fault for anything in the film; she merely exists, bears a child, loves that child, and dies for it.
I won’t linger long after such a rant, but I will end by saying this:
If we are ever going to change the way the pro-life movement is seen (especially by those who need to know what pro-life actually means), we have to acknowledge the reality of life, of womanhood, of the sacrifice and pain that is an inherent burden there as these films go to such lengths to show.
Promoting such films as Unplanned is not the way to do that.
If we don’t do something about this, we’ll lose far more than the ideals of the pro-life movement: we’ll lose the people we’re trying to reach.
Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-of-pregnant-woman-standing-51386/