Clearly, some elements of October Baby head down familiar roads in terms of cozy, age-old Hollywood-movie archetypes. After all, at its core, this is an adolescent road movie with plenty of rite-of-passage and soul-searching plot schemes attached. But that’s where the coziness ends, as the movie carves out a niche of its own through its central theme: addressing the issue of abortion from a pro-life perspective. To its credit, though, the hot-button topic — all the hotter in a period of election-year babble and crosstalk — is dealt with in a careful and clever storytelling package, rather than delivered with ham-fisted obviousness.
Despite its evident flaws and the TV-movie-esque modesty of its craft, October Baby intrigues almost because of the distinctiveness of its agenda and style, regardless of one’s personal views on the A-word. Our young heroine, Hannah (Rachel Hendrix, faring nicely in her debut role), has her sense of self thrown into a tailspin with the news that she is the survivor of a failed abortion. Her adoptive father (John “Dukes of Hazzard” Schneider) tries to soft-pedal the lifelong ruse of her origins, but there are nagging questions about her roots, desperately seeking resolution.
She joins her friends on a journey to Mobile, Alabama, with the goal of discovering her birth mother but with the added, painful twist of her mother having wanted to end her life before it began. Religion enters in only through a side door, in a scene in which Hannah, a Baptist, finds herself given sage advice by a Catholic priest.
Sentimental as all get-out and coated with ulterior motives, however subtly layered into the picture, October Baby nonetheless has a sweet, life-affirming message to it. On a larger scale, the film helps remind us that our multiplexes would be more interesting places if they hosted more alternate viewpoints and themes from outside the Hollywood norm.