Call Jane: Review
Call Jane Synopsis: Housewife Joy is overjoyed with the news of her pregnancy — until she learns it poses a threat to her own life. She has nowhere to turn until she meets an underground group of women who risk everything to provide people like her with a choice.
Living amidst the trials and tribulations of 1960s America, Joy spends her days as a dedicated housewife content with her existence. A sudden pregnancy seems like another milestone moment in her life, but she quickly learns that the birth could potentially kill her. With nowhere else to go, Joy soon finds herself embedded in an underground abortion operation in Call Jane.
No one could have predicted that director Phyllis Nagy’s period piece project would contain extra pertinence following its Sundance 2022 debut. The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June shifts Call Jane’s depictions of illegal abortion rings into an uncomfortable reality for several states across the United States. Call Jane also joins a recent collation of inspired films that spotlight the pro-choice issue, such as the coming-of-age comedies Plan B and Unpregnant.
While Call Jane doesn’t add new sentiments to the pro-choice conversation, the film illustrates a well-meaning and compelling ode to the boots-on-the-ground voices fighting for crucial civil liberties.
As a director, Nagy guides her narrative story with deep sensitivity. Her patient storytelling approach thoughtfully embeds viewers in Joy’s shoes – showcasing a woman shattering out of her deferential housewife existence in favor of a grander purpose. I appreciate the tact Nagy displays throughout; she never overworks sentiments with forceful gimmicks or maudlin score choices. Screenwriters Roshan Sethi and Hayley Schore also deserve praise for forgoing traditional histrionics in favor of a character-driven yarn. The duo articulates their worthwhile messages in a way that never cheapens moments for crowdpleasing cheers.
Joy’s dynamic personality comes to life through star Elizabeth Banks’s emanate talents. Banks commands the screen with captivating authority, shining an affectionate light onscreen as Joy gradually becomes a supportive activist in the abortion operation. I am glad filmmakers are starting to realize her gravitas onscreen, with Call Jane and the underrated Love and Mercy tapping into an underutilized skillset for the actress. Charismatic performances from Sigourney Weaver, Wunmi Mosaku, and Kate Mara help round a robust supporting cast.
Call Jane is soundly executed, but the final project can’t help feeling limited in its delivery. The material presents an advantageous opportunity to capture a diverse group of women working to ensure their peers’ personal freedoms. Unfortunately, the film’s finite focus on Joy prevents a more well-rounded perspective. I really wish the supporting cast received more room to breathe and develop substance onscreen considering the sparks they add in limited screen time.
Still, Call Jane effectively sounds the alarm on an all-too-relevant issue. It’s too bad the film is getting lost amidst the award season flurry. I expect it to find a supportive audience somewhere down the line.
Call Jane is now playing in theaters.