★★★★★ | Obvious Child

The movie opens with a very confident Donna in the middle of her stand-up comedy routine in a small nondescript bar in New York. She is extremely funny and disarmingly honest as she talks candidly about the absurdities of her own life.

The small audience loves it and applaud her enthusiastically when she finishes her Set. All that is except her boyfriend who had been standing at the back of the room listening to a stream of highly personal jokes made at his expense. Then minutes later the two of them are together in a rather busy unisex bathroom and he dumps her. Not for the jokes but because he has been sleeping with her best friend for some time now.

Suddenly life doesn’t seem quite so funny for this part-time comedian so she takes to her bed with a large bottle of wine and her phone. The more she drinks, the more she leaves a series of ugly voicemails on her (now ex) boyfriends machine.

Days later she’s back on stage and recounts this new development that resulted in her being a reluctant single again but she is so bitter and angry that she totally alienates the dwindling audience. This calls for more drinking in the bar afterwards and when she is well-plastered allows herself to be picked up by Max a clean-cut preppy business studies graduate who seems a fish-out-water both in this Dive and also in Donna’s bed where he ends up later.

Fast forward a few weeks and Donna discovers she is pregnant. She knows that the baby is Max’s but, as she tells Nellie her roommate, she doesn’t know how it happened. She was sure they had condoms and that she had even helped Max open the packet, but she was unsure if in their drunken stupor they had actually used them.

What Donna has no doubts about is that she will have an abortion, but when in a series of coincidences, she keeps running into Max again, she feels an obligation to at least share the news with him. The trouble is she never knows how too. She tries to confide in her puppet-making very supportive father and even in her rather cold micro-managing Professor mother but she fears losing their support. Naturally, when she does break down and break the news they are in her corner anyway and back her choice completely.

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But still left with having to deal with Max, she invites the unsuspecting (and very sweet) man to watch her perform at the Bar the night before the ‘procedure’ is scheduled, the date is February 13th. She is brutally upfront with all the details regarding the unwanted pregnancy and her chosen route and has her slightly shocked audience laughing along with her. Except, Max who runs out into the cold.

This wonderful, refreshing, heart-breaking comedy that bravely dares to tackle the oft-taboo subject of abortion head on is the work of director and co-writer Gillian Robespierre and is based on the successful short film she had made a few years earlier. Both Donna and Max are very believable characters, thanks to a combination of some excellent writing and great performances, and even though they are so totally opposite on many levels they are a good fit. This is, despite the plot I have outlined so far, a romantic comedy after all. There are still some moments of great pain and struggle as Donna wrestles with the finality of her choice and I think it is also very important to note that even with its very honest and open approach to abortion, no-one in this story treats the subject glibly.

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There is also a rather wonderful unexpected ending that so refreshingly steered cleared of all of the usual cliches but as it includes spoilers I have omitted covering it here.

This is indie movie making at its best and I loved it now just as much and when I first saw this at Sundance.

About the author: Roger Walker-Dack
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