There is a timeliness to Call Jane, a feature that follows a cloistered housewife called Joy (Elizabeth Banks), who upon hearing she needs an abortion for medical reasons and is denied by the hospital board, finds herself seeking an illegal alternative while finding herself assisting women all over the country get much needed medical care. Considering the state of modern abortion law in America you could be forgiven for assuming this is a modern-day story, a Never Rarely Sometimes Always that looks at the so called morally grey areas of abortion, only Call Jane is set in the 60s and the arguments it makes here have never been more important. It might be telling a fictional story, one that feels a little too tidy and clinical in its presentation, but Director Phyllis Nagy understands the importance of this story outside of the characters living it.
The film itself, outside of its cultural relevance is a mixed bag. On the one hand it starts with a compelling husband and wife narrative and both Banks and Chris Messina play well off each other but when the films real story begins, his presence becomes an afterthought and while it serves a purpose it makes Call Jane feel like it doesn’t know in what direction it is headed. While the film compels when Banks and Sigourney Weaver command the screen, the whole film feels lost at sea without a sense of direction to it. Characters come and go without warning, plot points are forgotten in favour of highlighting another political standpoint and most of all, good performances are drowned out by a story in too much of a hurry to a finale that disappoints. While it isn’t the worst film and it feels like the right cultural moment for such a film, mostly it made me want to rewatch Never Rarely Sometimes Always and that isn’t the best outcome now is it?