Review of October Baby

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This 2011 American drama film revolves around a 19-year-old girl who learns that her parents adopted her, and that her birth was the result of a botched abortion.
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Movie Review: "October Baby"

-- Rating: PG-13 (mature thematic material)
Length: 107 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 30, 2011
Directed by: Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin
Genre: Drama

"October Baby" is a well-made film that has a message about forgiveness running throughout the entire 107 minutes. It centers on a young college student named Hannah (Rachel Hendrix), who at 19 years of age is just starting to try and figure out who she really is inside.

Although a film about a teenager trying to find herself is nothing new, Hannah is not an ordinary college student. She is special and has been all her life as a result of intermittent health problems whose origin nobody could quite pin down. It isn't until she collapses on stage while performing in a school play that she begins to find out answers to questions she didn't even know she had.

Her loving parents Jacob (John Schneider) and Grace (Jennifer Price) finally admit to her that she was adopted as an infant. They brought her home after she spent a long time in the hospital because she was born when her mother was just six months along. Then they drop the real bombshell: her birth mother was having a late term abortion that wasn't successful and she was born prematurely as a result of the botched procedure.

The fact that she almost didn't live really hits Hannah like a ton of bricks. It calls into question everything she thought she knew about herself and everything she is still striving to learn. Like many adopted children, she decides that she needs to meet her birth mother in person to find out more about where she came from. Jacob and Grace are clearly worried about her new quest. They know Hannah is aware that they love her unconditionally, but they worry about what her birth mother Cindy (Shari Rigby) will say to her should Hannah find her. Will a bad reaction from Cindy just further confuse their precious daughter?

Hannah sets out anyway, aware of the risks but ready to find Cindy. Her journey includes a lot of inner searching along with her friend Jason (Jason Burkey), who may end up being more than just a friend. They go to New Orleans to visit the hospital where the procedure took place and finally find Cindy, who outright rejects Hannah as a nuisance in her life.

"October Baby" deals with some very traumatic situations in a very sensitive manner. The screenplay by Jon Erwin and Theresa Preston could have easily become overly dramatic or even sensational, but instead the directors try to treat the heavy material with a deft hand. It works really well, especially since the cast all give great performances.

This is especially true of newcomer Hendrix, who won the lead role after an exhausting search to find a girl with the right amount of vulnerability and faith. As Hannah, Hendrix lights up every scene she is in (which is almost all of them) and sets the tone for the rest of the film. This may be the first movie she has ever made, but it certainly won't be her last. "October Baby" had a limited theatrical run, but it should be enough to get her in front of casting directors for future parts. Schneider is equally good as her father, showing that he hasn't lost a bit of the charisma that made him a star back in the 1970s. He is always very serious in his scenes, but somehow his charm still manages to break through the drama.

There are a few one-liners thrown in for some levity, as the subject matter is too heavy not to have a little bit of welcome comic relief. It makes for a very balanced film from co-directors Andrew and Jon Erwin, who really know how to frame a shot. From a purely visual perspective, the film looks gorgeous. It is shot mostly on location, with good use of outdoor areas in the background of some scenes. The directors manage to catch some very rich colors and lighting for the handful of montages that are positioned throughout the film.

By the time "October Baby" winds down, Hannah has realized that perhaps the destination was not the point of her trip, but instead the journey to find Cindy was the real takeaway. Instead of finding her birth mother, she might have found herself instead. This is a good lesson for anyone to learn and adds to the positive message that the film already delivers.

Rating: 3 out of 5