3 Sep, 14 | by Iain Brassington
As far as I can tell, the ratio of talked-about-ness to actual screenings of Obvious Child is unusually high; it doesn’t seem to have got all that much time in mainstream cinemas, which meant that I had to schlep along to Manchester’s Cornerhouse to see it. (I have a theory about cinemas, which is that the artistic quality of the establishment is inversely proportional to the comfort of the seating. The Cornerhouse is a nice example of this rule in action.) Why it’s attracted so much attention is captured in the elevator pitch: it’s a romantic comedy about abortion. It certainly got certain elements of the US commentariat all excited – RightWingWatch has a nice little compilation here – though admittedly, as far as I can tell, the objections haven’t been matched in the UK, where the emphasis has been much more along the lines of “It’s that film that got the American right all antsy”.
I can see why certain sectors of the commentariat have got upset about it; the film is remarkable in just how down-to-earth its handling of the plot is. The plot is dead simple: a woman (Donna, played by Jenny Slate) loses her boyfriend and her job within the space of about three frames, gets drunk, has a one-night-stand, gets pregnant, decides to have an abortion, lets the father of the child know all this in the course of a stand-up routine, has that abortion, then decides to watch Gone with the Wind. It’s that straightforward.
For Donna, it’s less a matter of obvious children than obvious decisions. She doesn’t want to be pregnant, and sets about not being. There’s no indication that she’ll regret the decision; there’re no lingering shots of Donna agonising over whether it’s the right thing to do; the father (Max, played by Jake Lacy) says he wants to be a grandfather in passing, but doesn’t try to talk her out of it, or even insist that he should have a say. Donna is a little nervous about the procedure – but then, it makes sense to be a little nervous about having a mole removed or any other minor surgery. There’s no moral freight, though. Donna is not irresponsible – I mean, she might have done something a bit irresponsible in not taking more care with the contraception, but that’s a shared thing with Max; and making a decision about what to do in the wake of having done something a bit daft is responsible.
In other words, Obvious Child is just about a person making a decision. more…