Is “Unplanned,” the new indie Christian film worth a date night? Yes . . . but it’s also emotionally wrenching at times.
This surprisingly well-made film tells the story of Abby Johnson. She’s a Planned Parenthood clinic manager who became the organization’s worst nightmare when she quit and spread the word on the horrific realities of abortion. This is a compelling, important film that all Catholics should support. Overall, it’s a good and even important movie to see.
Five years ago, an independent, Christian-themed film called “God’s Not Dead” came out of literally nowhere to become a box-office phenomenon. With former “Hercules” TV star Kevin Sorbo as its only recognizable face, a tiny $2 million budget and almost no ad support on television, the movie still managed to gross more than $60 million at the box office. Hollywood wondered how they pulled it off.
But judging it as a movie, “God’s Not Dead” was a truly terrible film on many levels. It had a laughable script and bad acting. The producers started a company called PureFlix off of their success, however. They’ve kept cranking out a couple faith-based hits a year to lesser but still some success.
The true-life story of a top Planned Parenthood employee
“Unplanned” is a film that pulls the curtain back and shines a much-needed light on America’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. Almost shockingly, it’s a truly solid and compelling film on every level, showing that they’ve learned to make good films with experience.
The movie follows the true-life story of Abby Johnson, a woman who had two abortions before becoming a Planned Parenthood employee and rising to the status of being a clinic director named Employee of the Year. But then she finally saw the ultrasound of an abortion in progress. She became immediately devastated by seeing the pain the unborn baby was going through.
Johnson immediately resigned from Planned Parenthood and went on to write a best-selling book of the same name about her experiences. She also created a movement that is encouraging Planned Parenthood staffers to follow in her courageous footsteps and leave their abortion careers behind.
Told through her narration, the story follows Johnson from when she was a typical college student approaching a Planned Parenthood information table at a college fair. The perky PP staffer working the table talks her into volunteering at a clinic, even though she’s been raised by devoutly Christian parents who are completely pro-life.
Soon, she slipped into a bad affair and has an abortion herself. She blocks her guilt by throwing herself into her volunteer work, eventually getting hired and then promoted while having a second abortion along the way.
She eventually marries a Christian man and has a young daughter. However, Johnson keeps working her way up at the clinic. She becomes an expert saleswoman for abortion. But when she is called in unexpectedly to help with an ultrasound on an abortion, she finally sees the horror closeup and decides her life must change.
Not just preaching to the choir
It may seem that “Unplanned” preaches to the pro-life choir. But the movie still reveals much about how Planned Parenthood works and their relentless drive to bring in more abortions to make more money. The fact that this all comes from a real-life Planned Parenthood Employee of the Year revealing the info makes it undeniable. As such, it’s important to support a film like this for getting the truth out, so that the filmmakers can have a hit that will enable them to keep turning out important films like this.
The cast is made completely of unknowns, which can be seen as a sad reflection of mainstream Hollywood’s nearly wholesale rejection of pro-life viewpoints. But thankfully the cast they have picked, led by Ashley Bratcher as Johnson, is outstanding. Her performance is rousing and heartbreaking all at once.
“Unplanned” is a deep and complex look at the abortion issue
One of the most impressive aspects of “Unplanned” is that Konzelman and Solomon have resisted the easy urge to portray the Planned Parenthood workers as monsters. They are portrayed as normal human beings who happen to have bad jobs but may not realize what they are really doing.
Thus, the film has an intelligence and subtlety that allows the real horrors of abortion itself to be fully focused upon. They also show the contrast between mean-spirited abortion protesters who make ugly chants at the women coming for abortions, and a kinder team that has much more profound success with their approach.
There are some gruesome scenes in the film, with two abortions shown and a tense scramble to save the life of a third woman whose uterus is perforated in a botched abortion. But writer-directors Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon use as much discretion as possible, leaving much for viewers to fill in the details themselves.
This is a vitally important film that should be seen and supported by any adult Catholic. Help it spread the horrifying truth about Planned Parenthood, while also enabling the filmmakers to have a success that will enable them to keep making more such films.
Overall: 10 out of 10
Carl Kozlowski is a Catholic comedian, film reviewer, and journalist who is also the founder and co-owner of the podcast station www.radiotitans.com in Los Angeles. He reviews movies for the Catholic News Agency as well as the Christian site Movieguide.org, but has also worked with secular outlets including the Pasadena Weekly, Chicago Tribune and Esquire. He has also produced and hosted comedy shows for the LA Catholic Archdiocese's charities and performed at some of the nation's top clubs and with top comics including Dane Cook and Dave Chappelle. He strives to find the way to work with both Christian and secular audiences in all his career paths.