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Call Jane


Stars: Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver, Chris Messina, Kate Mara, Wunmi Mosaku, Cory Michael Smith, Grace Edwards, Aida Turturro

Director: Phyllis Nagy

With current abortion controversies rampant in the United States, this drama couldn't be more timely. It's a bit lacking in urgency and bite, but the director has a fascinating story to work with, and offers a solid effort, with an equally solid and thoughtful portrayal from Banks, whom I'm more used to seeing in comedy.

It's 1968 and Banks is Joy, a typical suburban housewife with neat figure and flip-bobbed blonde hair, who has long since sublimated any career ambitions to those of her successful criminal lawyer husband Will (a rather uneasily-cast Messina).

They have a 14-year-old daughter (Edwards) and a belated second on the way, when Joy collapses at home, and is told she has a rare condition which could lead to heart disease, and gives her only a 50 per cent chance of survival if she goes through with the pregnancy. The hospital turns her down for a termination on medical grounds.

After flirting with everything from back street abortions to throwing herself down the stairs, Joy happens to see a fly-poster proffering 'Anxious about pregnancy? Call Jane'. She does, discovering that 'Jane' is a collective run by Virginia (Weaver). Its rather creepy 'doctor' with a Beatle haircut, Dean (Smith), proves to know his stuff, and, in sanitised conditions, the op is successfully performed.

Back home, Joy receives a call from Virginia asking her to help in an emergency. Before long, Joy has not only been drawn into the life of the collective, but become one of its most forthright members. Telling Will she is attending art classes (though she never produces a painting!), she begins to assist Dean at the procedures, later almost blackmailing him into teaching her how to do the procedures herself.

It's a pity the director doesn't achieve more threat of constant exposure, robbing the film of more compelling forward motion, but the facts, though telescoped, are intelligently presented, and the efforts of the Jane Collective would eventually lead to the famous Roe vs Wade ruling that gave US women freedom of abortion - until a new ruling has encouraged some states to decide otherwise.

David Quinlan

USA 2021. UK Distributor: Vertigo. Colour by Kodak.
121 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 02 Nov 2022