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"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge
the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." ~Proverbs 24:3-4

October Baby: Every Life is Beautiful

October Baby is a movie worth seeing, especially by teens and young adults! It’s a coming-of-age story about Hannah (Rachel Hendrix), a 19-year-old freshman college student. Hannah has always felt like an outsider. She can’t explain why, but she’s always had a deep-seated feeling that she has no right to exist. Hannah asks, “Why, God, do I feel unwanted?” Hannah is emotionally fragile, full of anxiety and self-doubt, and it doesn’t help that some consider her to be a “Christian homeschooling freak” whose wholesome perfection annoys them to no end.

Hannah suffered numerous health issues in childhood, including epilepsy and asthma, but she emerged as a generally healthy young adult and an incredible stage actress – that is, until she unexpectedly collapsed during her theatrical debut in a college play. After a series of medical tests, all the evidence points towards Hannah’s difficult birth. Hannah’s parents (John Schneider and Shari Rigby) are forced to reveal that they are not her biological parents. She was adopted and was never told due to the traumatic and heartbreaking circumstances: “You were born premature because you were the survivor of a failed abortion.”

Shocked, angry, and confused that her “whole life is a lie,” Hannah turns to her longtime friend and confidante, Jason (Jason Burkey). She impulsively decides to join him and his friends on a spring break trip that becomes a quest to find her true identity and bring meaning to her life. Hannah determines that she must return to her birthplace in Mobile, Alabama (where much of the film was shot) as a starting point to tracking down her birth mother, or else she will never be able to “get on with her life.” Why? Because she needs to know why she was unwanted – and no doubt a whole lot more.

The road trip is an attempt to lighten the mood, with former “American Idol” Top 10 finalist Chris Sligh as the wacky owner of the VW minibus. Nevertheless, much of the film is filled with scenes in which Hannah engages in earnest conversations with various authority figures, including a helpful priest and a sympathetic cop who offer advice such as: “to be human is to be beautifully flawed,” “life isn’t always black and white,” and “hate the crime, not the criminal.” Along the way, Hannah learns there is even more to her story than she could have imagined.

The movie’s cast provides some powerful performances. Prior to playing Hannah - her first starring role - Rachel Hendrix mostly acted in short films, music videos, and commercials. But she is a gifted young actress who really blossoms the more emotionally complex her character becomes. Jasmine Guy plays the nurse who worked at the abortion clinic and fills in several pieces of Hannah's puzzle. Guy’s halting, haunting recollection is absolutely unforgettable in one essential scene. Another memorable moment came from Shari Rigby, who plays the abortive mother confronted with her past (and who also shares her personal story during the ending credits).

Former Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider is terrific as Hannah’s overly protective dad; yet his fatherly role is inflated while his wife, Grace, played by Jennifer Price, is almost an afterthought. Jason Burkey’s acting is relaxed and natural, and Chris Sligh serves well as the comic relief. Fans of Sherwood Pictures’ Courageous take note: Robert Amaya plays the beach cop in October Baby. Like the Kendrick brothers’ movies, October Baby is an accessible values-themed film that wears its faith on its sleeve yet is not preachy and leaves enough room at the table for anyone to join in. The film has a point of view, to be sure, but it treats everyone fairly and lets viewers reach their own conclusions.

While the narrative of October Baby begins with a failed abortion, the story’s thematic message transcends the particulars. October Baby isn’t about abortion as much as it is about forgiveness and letting go of pain and hurt. To its credit, October Baby doesn't opt for the expected ending and surprises us with some real plot twists. With humor, heart, and conviction, October Baby reminds us that life can be so much more than what one has planned, and the greatest thing we can offer one another is our love.

October Baby was co-directed by Dove Award-winning brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin. The filmmakers, who grew up working for ESPN and are longtime music video veterans, have delivered a technically polished production for their first full-length feature film. The production values are comparable to other theatrical-release teen dramas, and Jon Erwin photographed the movie beautifully. The original music by Paul Mills perfectly complements the story, enhancing the scenes and weaving them together. October Baby won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Fiction Feature at the 2011 Red Rock Film Festival and is being co-distributed by Provident Films and Samuel Goldwyn Co.

October Baby opened on March 23, the same day as The Hunger Games, so it could have been easily overlooked. And yet according to Fox News, even though October Baby only showed in 390 theaters, the pro-life drama earned the second-highest-per-screen average, bringing in almost $2 million in ticket sales. Director Jon Erwin said, “Here is our little film, small budget, in the top ten [at the box office]. We are thrilled, blown away.” The producers of October Baby have assigned 10% of the profits to the Every Life is Beautiful Fund, which will distribute funds to frontline organizations helping women facing crisis pregnancies, life-affirming adoption agencies, and those caring for orphans.

Did You Know...? October Baby was loosely based on the life of abortion survivor and pro-life speaker Gianna Jessen. Read her story: Gianna: Aborted, and Lived to Tell about It


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