Sunday, August 22, 2010

Movie Review: Juno

This column over at First Thoughts, the apparent First Things staff blog, got my dander up last week, and it's not even about the main point of the column.  I pretty much think the author is right, in general, about the point he's making, but that's not what I'm talking about.  I found it interesting that "those people who think children are a choice" are the same people who "thought Juno was a pro-life film."


I'm one of those apparently crazy people who did in fact think Juno was a pro-life film. I worked at a crisis pregnancy center for a few years in college (before the movie came out), and aside from the weird emotional-adultery thing with the adoptive father, the movie is one I think I would generally recommend to many of the girls who came into our office.

The main plot of the story is that Juno is a high school girl who has a one-night-stand with her best guy friend, and thereby becomes pregnant.  After telling one of her girlfriends, and contemplating an abortion (she changes her mind when the one lone protester outside the abortion clinic, a classmate of Juno's, informs Juno that the baby already has fingernails), she decides to continue the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption.  Throughout the movie, we see Juno gain self-confidence in her role as mother (even just for the time while she is pregnant).  We see her family being shocked, and then generally supportive, and even a little challenging and confrontational when is appropriate.  We see her friends try to be supportive, but we also see the situation at school change a lot, and Juno not quite knowing where her place is anymore.  We see Paulie (the dad) trying to be helpful and supportive, but not quite knowing how.  And for Juno's part, she seems to not really be able to communicate what kind of help and support she wants or needs from him.  And we see the Juno-Paulie relationship grow and evolve. 

The reason I liked the movie so much is that I found it to be pretty realistic. Life is hard, especially when you make bad decisions, and the movie has no qualms about making that clear. But what was most needed by a lot of the girls I saw at the pregnancy center was hope, the idea of a "future story." Many of them couldn't see beyond the next 5 minutes, let alone imagine a scenario 9-12 months down the road where things would be "not perfect, but ok." That's what I liked about the film - for girls who are already pregnant, I think it sends the message, "You can do this. It's going to be hard, and it's not going to be perfect, but you can do this."

Granted, not every pregnant teenager has a great family or supportive friends or a boyfriend who tries to be helpful.  Some are all-but-forced into abortions, or carry the pregnancy to term and then are given little to no support from a family who either disowns them, or considers the situation to be so common that no one bats an eye.  Life is messy.  But Juno shows one plausible scenario of a way that this situation can work out to being "okay."  Because the reality is that having an abortion is no less emotionally messy than keeping a baby or placing it for adoption.  And by highlighting to its viewers the reality of the baby (it has fingernails) and then setting up a reasonable way life can play out over the next several months, this movie gives hope to teenagers who might not be able to imagine it otherwise. 

That's why it's a pro-life movie.

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