With Plan B, teenage abortion road trip movies keep coming

In the United States, young women who wish to terminate their pregnancies often have to experience logistical and emotional challenges first. You wouldn’t know that of Juno: In Jason reitmanNominated for an Oscar in 2007, the main character enters his local Planned Parenthood after passing a teenage protester, a nerdy anti-abortion fanatic. His words, however, have an effect on Juno (Elliot Page); it turns out that she can’t stand being inside the clinic and locks herself up, deciding to have her child and abandon him for adoption. The rest of the movie doesn’t exactly shed light on the circumstances of teenage pregnancy, or the difficulty of giving up a baby you’ve carried to term. But mainly Juno focuses on the interpersonal dynamic between the girl and the future parents of the baby to whom she gives birth.

We’re in a different time now, where more and more movies are being made about teenage girls and adult women who decide not to carry unplanned pregnancies to term. These films, in general, take into account the structural as well as the personnel – how some states in the United States make it nearly impossible to receive reproductive health care, especially for adolescents whose rights are usually ceded to their parents. Movies typically involve road trips, obstacle-strewn stays over state lines, and / or the nearest Planned Parenthood – one of the few places to reliably and affordably receive child care. hassle-free reproductive health.

The last of them, Plan B—A teenage comedy directed by Natalie Morales and available May 28 on Hulu – set in South Dakota. In this state and several others, a “Conscience clause” gives the pharmacist the right to refuse abortion medication (including the morning-after pill and birth control) to minors based on that provider’s personal beliefs. When sunny (Kuhoo Verma), a good pair of shoes with good grades, have his first house party and have sex for the first time, the guy puts the condom inside out. She finds him in the toilet the next day. She and her more experienced rebellious best friend, Lupe (Victoria Moroles), find themselves on a wild goose hunt to get the pill from a more politically aligned supplier several hours away. The cinematography of the film is a sepia haze; despite the emphasis on South Dakota geography (at one point the girls pull out a physical map), there is nothing particularly specific about it. We see various home interiors, the drugstore, the highway, a bowling alley in mostly medium shots – we could be anywhere. There is a missed opportunity here to tell us where and who these young women really are, beyond their racial identity or how they adhere to high school tropes.

Director Rachel Lee Goldenbergof Not pregnant (2020), another teen comedy, follows a different pair as they embark on their own slapdash road trip from Missouri to New Mexico to secure blonde, perky and popular Veronica (Haley lu richardson) a hasty abortion (as Juno once said) without parental consent. Veronica’s former friend Bailey (Barbie ferreira), has the car and common sense, so let’s go. The film’s slogan is “She’s Type A Without a Plan B,” which clearly shows how similar the themes and structure are. Not pregnant is of Plan B.

In both films, the charismatic lead actors wear otherwise lackluster scripts, which are more interested in mimicking or updating teen movie tropes than crafting an original aesthetic. Both films show quite clearly, however, the absurd cruelty of the various strict United States reproductive health policies and the psychic and material hardships imposed by living under the absolute authority of conservative religious parents no matter what. how much these parents can love you. They also stress the importance of friendship and solidarity in the face of injustice.

Eliza hittmanof Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020), the best film of this group – and the first to come out – again deals with very similar themes. It’s a drama, but the genre isn’t what gets the film to rise above it. Hittman is interested in how reproductive rights relate to the rights and freedoms of young women in general, and how the relationships young women form with each other depend on tacit knowledge of how this freedom is denied or denied. Bodily autonomy, including the absence of abuse and judgment, becomes central in the film, which follows a young girl, Autumn (Sidney flanigan) and his cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) as they travel from rural Pennsylvania to New York by bus so Autumn can have an abortion at a Planned Parenthood where Autumn will not need parental consent to undergo the procedure.

Hittman’s camera stays close to the two girls, frozen in their orbit; they build around them a sort of protective energy, even temporary. There is a kind of magic in their experience, even though no miracles happen. Never Rarely is the only film of these three that deals head-on with the money and economics of owning your own body (although Plan B briefly flirts with the idea of ​​selling his body to secure his resources). Hittman does not attempt to delve into vulgarized visions of adolescent existence, forgoing the imagined cultural touchpoints of Gen Z for a more naturalistic experience of how two young girls from rural America would express themselves (or would not speak).

It’s admittedly harder to do that sort of thing in pure comedy, to write jokes that don’t depend on current trends or whatever old people think is weird about young people. Yet all of these abortion road trip movies work best when they consider how teens are uniquely the victims of reproductive rights assault, how they depend on whim or the morals of adults to determine what little. of their own life that they have for themselves. Whatever genres the filmmakers choose, there is a lot of potential here, especially given the amazing fight ahead.

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About Juana Renfrow

Juana Renfrow

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