One of the socially urgent films this fall festival season sure to generate conversation wherever it screens is “Call Jane,” the Elizabeth Banks-led drama that tells the true story of the Jane Collective. The underground organization, which was officially known as the Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation, performed over 11,000 safe abortions in the Chicago area between 1969 and 1973 when the procedure was still illegal. If that wasn’t enough to pique your interest, the film has the added pedigree of being the feature directorial debut of playwright Phyllis Nagy, who wrote the screenplay for Todd Haynes’ “Carol.”
The film is set in Chicago, 1968, when the city and the nation are poised on the brink of political upheaval. Suburban housewife Joy (Elizabeth Banks) leads an ordinary life with her husband and daughter. But when Joy’s pregnancy leads to a life-threatening heart condition, she must navigate an all-male medical establishment unwilling to terminate her pregnancy in order to save her life.
Her journey for a solution leads her to Virginia (Sigourney Weaver), an independent visionary fiercely committed to women’s health, and Gwen (Wunmi Mosaku), an activist who dreams of a day when all women will have access to abortion, regardless of their ability to pay. Joy is so inspired by their work that she decides to join forces with them, putting every aspect of her life on the line.
In her Sundance review of “Call Jane,” IndieWire’s Kate Erbland had high praise for Banks’ performance, writing that “Banks is asked to do a lot to portray Joy, tracking her through major changes in a minimum of time, and the actress delivers. With just a flick of her eyes or a certain kind of exhale, she sells Joy’s entire inner life. Nagy might struggle to hold together the film’s tone, but Banks is never less than pitch perfect. It’s a remarkable turn, and one handled with the grace necessary to do justice to this story and the women who inspired it.”
Roadside Attractions is scheduled to release “Call Jane” in theaters on Friday, October 28. You can watch the official trailer below.