It is only with morbid curiosity and the fact it was available to view for free on Tubi that I found myself watching the 2019 anti-abortion drama “Unplanned.” Now those who know me know I am forever pro-choice, am very angry at the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, and I am a staunch supporter of Planned Parenthood, so clearly this film was not made for someone like me. Still, I dared myself to sit through this motion picture to see if I can provide any sort of objective criticism on it. So, whatever side of this issue you are on, pray for me.
“Unplanned” is based on the memoir by Abby Johnson who worked for years at a Planned Parenthood clinic before eventually becoming a staunch anti-abortion activist. Abby is played by Ashley Bratcher, and the film opens up on her being asked to assist in an ultrasound-guided suction aspiration abortion for a patient who is 13 weeks pregnant. As she assists, she watches the monitor and sees the fetus trying to fight back against the doctor’s attempts to remove it. So overwhelmed by what she sees, she goes straight to bathroom and cries her eyes out. From there, the film flashes back to eight years earlier when Abby first joined Planned Parenthood and of her experiences with both management and the anti-abortion protesters she later befriends.
Okay, let me start with what I like about “Unplanned,” and that is Ashley Bratcher’s performance. Regardless of how you feel about the subject matter, she does give a strong and convincingly emotional performance as she makes Abby’s inner conflicts quite palpable. In the process, she gives us one of the best performances you could ever hope to find in a Pure Flix production. And let’s face it, their films are not known for having Oscar caliber performances.
Also, the filmmakers do feature a scene which, ever so briefly, serves to separate certain pro-lifers from others. One ani-abortionist screams at a woman entering the clinic for not keeping her legs crossed, but others are not quick to engage such unnecessarily harsh language.
And I do have to say that “Unplanned” does end with one of the biggest laughs I have had at the movies recently as the filmmakers give us an end card stating that Planned Parenthood had no involvement or participation in this film’s production. Wow! Really?! You think?!
Well, I have clearly reached the tipping point here, haven’t I? While everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs to where all need to be heard, none of this changes the fact that “Unplanned” is shamelessly manipulative, full of propaganda and outright lies, and its presentation of Planned Parenthood as being like the evil Empire from “Star Wars” is defamatory and borderline criminal. Clearly the filmmakers were not the least bit interested in being unbiased, and I am obligated to hold them accountable for the bullshit parade they have given us here.
Let us start with the opening ultrasound abortion scene. The special effects are truly awful as no fetus recoils like that at 13 weeks, and this is a scientific fact. If a fetus could recoil in such a way, I have no doubt the filmmakers would have used real ultrasound footage to bolster their case. Also, we never do learn exactly why this patient is getting this specific kind of abortion. Was she raped? Is her overall health in danger? Was there a strong chance of her dying if she didn’t get this abortion? Well, no one here seems interested in such questions.
As for the scenes of Abby’s abortions, particularly her second one, writers and directors Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman are completely shameless in making it look both bloody as hell and life-threatening. With all the blood on display, it’s no wonder this is the first Pure Flix production to earn an R rating. The truth is, abortions are actually safer than childbirth, which itself can be very dangerous. But yeah, there are people who hate science for all the wrong reasons and are determined to remain willfully ignorant.
I also found its portrayal of Planned Parenthood as nothing more than a corporate monolith interested in profiting from abortion not just repellent, but completely and inescapably reprehensible. Much of this is corrupted view of the non-profit organization illustrated through the character of Cheryl, director of the clinic Abby works at. Played by Robia Scott, Cheryl comes as a smug as hell individual who is far too cold hearted to be the least bit believable as a fighter for abortion rights. For the filmmakers, Cheryl is essentially a Darth Vader-like character who spouts a lot of crap about how abortions are Planned Parenthood’s cash cow, and that the organization should be run no differently than a fast-food restaurant. Seriously, I kept waiting for her to tell Abby, “I find your lack of abortions at this clinic disturbing.”
And, like many faith-based features, “Unplanned” suffers from a low budget, cheap cinematography, a music score designed to assault your emotions as opposed to simply manipulating them and, as expected, a lot of bad acting. While Bratcher shines, everyone else emotes or acts as if they are reading off of cue cards which are just a few feet away. Granted, they are reduced to spouting many ridiculous and dangerous talking points, particularly towards the movie’s conclusion, but they are in serious need of acting lessons more than anything else. As for Brooks Ryan who plays Abby’s second husband, Doug, he acts as though he barely has a pulse. In the scene where she gives birth to their daughter, he is far too serene and calm to be the least bit believable as an expectant father, and it got to where I wanted Abby to, as Robin Williams once said, grab his scrotum and pull it up over his head.
But what enraged me the most about “Unplanned” is how the filmmakers deny Abby not just her personhood, but her womanhood more than anything else. While she has a loving husband and parents, they cannot help but look down on her as they are defiantly pro-life while she spends most of this movie being pro-choice. When Abby eventually does her 180 on abortion, they come to embrace her fully in a way that they always should have regardless of their differences. Plus, there is a scene in which Doug forgives Abby for her past abortions, and it feels like he is saying to her, “It’s okay. Because you are pro-life now, I can truly see you as a woman now.”
That’s right folks, “Unplanned” is not as pro-life as it is anti-woman. The implications of this are so deep that I have a feeling the filmmakers may not even realize this. The women here are viewed as being selfish and thoughtless for taking on jobs instead of being stay at home mothers. The men, however, are portrayed as such angelic creatures who look to save these women from their own ghastly impulses. Look, not everyone needs to be saved, and if history has taught me anything, it is that women have never been the gentler or weaker sex, ever. Seriously, this is as chauvinistic and misogynistic as any film I have seen in recent years, and there is no excuse for that.
Oh, and Mike Lindell, the My Pillow guy and one of “Unplanned’s” executive producers, has a cameo as a tractor driver who gleefully pulls down a Planned Parenthood sign after the clinic is shut down. But looking deep into his eyes, Lindell looks more like he is vicariously destroying a sign of a local chapter of the Better Business Bureau, and we know how the Better Business Bureau feels about him.
Well, have I given you all an objective review of “Unplanned?” I want to say yes, but with movies like these, is almost impossible not take a side, and this one will simply reinforce those on both aisles of the abortion debate.
Look, maybe the world would be a better place with no abortions, and it should be clear that no one really wants to get one. There has to be a movie out there somewhere in which people on both sides of the abortion debate can find some common ground, and it would be great to find any common ground in such divisive times. “Unplanned” is not that movie, and it was never designed to be as it was made by people who choose to be willfully ignorant, and those people end up making life more difficult for everyone.
To be completely honest with you, “Unplanned” proves to be one of the most infuriating and intellectually insulting motion pictures ever made by human beings. Then again, it was made by the same people who gave us “God’s Not Dead.”
* out of * * * *