Last month, I went to see October Baby when its distribution expanded to Austin. Although I am a Christian, I do not feel automatically compelled to like Christian films. Holy people still sin; Christian films can still be terrible. I’ve never actually seen any of Sherwood Pictures’s movies (Facing the Giants, Fireproof, or Courageous), but I haven’t intentionally avoided them. I hear the acting is bad. An over-reliance on volunteers has plagued many a church endeavor.
I will admit, though, that I saw October Baby in a theater (on a Friday!) partly so that films of its nature will continue being made. It’s not that I want more material for critics to pan: I want the industry to improve. It’s hard to start making better Christian movies if you stop making them altogether. Think about how popular superhero films are right now, or how many dozens of paranormal teen romance novels you can find. When one works, more get made.
A few years ago, I went with the youth group I helped chaperone to see To Save a Life. I’m admittedly a sucker for stories about teenagers with problems, but I thought it was a good movie overall. The acting seemed okay, although it wasn’t phenomenal. The story did not end perfectly, and it was compelling and realistic without being too preachy (though not without being preachy at all, of course). I enjoyed it so much that I bought it on DVD. I knew it would be worth re-watching and contemplating. (It deserves its own review one of these days. Stay posted.)
I’m not sure that I can say quite the same about October Baby, but I definitely enjoyed it. The movie tells the story of college freshman Rachel, who collapses on stage at her first major theatrical performance. Her suddenly worsened illness is linked to her lifelong health problems, which began with her difficult birth. Eventually, Rachel’s parents reveal that they adopted her after she was born during an attempted abortion. (Many pro-lifers will recognize this as the story of Gianna Jessen.) Torn over this new facet of her identity, Rachel sets out with her best friend Jason to find her roots and figure out who she’s going to become.
Without giving away too much of the story, I found it reasonably realistic. Some of the secondary characters were either too heavy-handed with the comic relief or entirely useless, though, which annoyed me. There’s a line between a background character and a flat secondary character, and it must be respected. Having lived in the areas where the film takes place, I can attest to the general behavior of those locals, as strange as it may seem. Sometimes people really are too nice to believe. Despite those odd characterizations, the acting left me with no complaints. When I learned that Jasmine Guy and John Schneider were featured, I knew this movie would be different. Hiring recognized actors brings so much credibility to a film such as this!
One of my favorite aspects of the movie was that Rachel and Jason demonstrated a beautiful and healthy relationship. He treated her with respect and protected her without being controlling at all, and she accepted his affection without losing herself in him. She was still independent, but he helped lift her up. They had a long history that contributed toward their future, and I believed that they had a genuine and Christlike love for each other. I can’t say that about every movie pair.
October Baby is clearly a message film. Its tagline, “Every life is beautiful,” suggests a kind of hope that many people have lost these days. Whether you find hope in God or in the balancing power of “the universe,” October Baby will help remind you that there is goodness inherent within people. The future may not be dazzling, but it can still be bright.