Faith films are on the rise,” said up-and-coming Hollywood filmmaker Jon Erwin in a recent interview with Urban Christian News. Jon and Andrew Erwin are two Christian filmmaking brothers who teamed up to embark on the challenging journey of directing their first feature film.
In their determination to tackle one of today’s most controversial issues, the Erwin brothers unravel the poignant story of a young woman who is brought face-to-face with the hidden truth of her past: she is an abortion survivor. On March 23, the captivating true-life story “October Baby” was brought to the nationwide big screen, and its meaningful pro-life message is left to resonate among the deviating opinions of our culture.
The story begins by immediately placing viewers in the shoes of protagonist Hannah Lawson (Rachel Hendix), a college freshman and aspiring actress. During her theatrical debut, Hannah suddenly collapses to the floor without warning. As she undergoes medical testing, one question leads to another as Hannah realizes the truth of her birth: she was adopted, and, as if that wasn’t shocking enough, she barely survived an attempted abortion. In a disoriented haze of confusion and resentment, Hannah sets out to find closure. Her quest for identity is aided by her closest friend, Jason (Jason Burkey), who helps Hannah search for her birth mother (Shari Rigby). During this journey, Hannah wrestles with deep emotional wounds of rejection, betrayal and bitterness that lead her to discover the power of God’s grace and forgiveness.
“I think the values of middle America have kind of been dismissed by Hollywood,” Jon Erwin said in an interview with UCN, “and I think they are realizing now there’s a huge market there because they are giving us a voice in films that we’ve never had before.”
Under the artful direction of the Erwin brothers, this beautiful story dexterously interweaves striking moments of intensity with the realism of true events, the excitement of romance and young love, and a creative sprinkling of rich humor. For a film that is so moving to also possess such vibrant qualities of humor is an impressive trait, not too commonly found in the film industry today. When interviewed by the Christian Broadcasting Network in regards to the film’s humor, Andy Erwin remarked that “ October Baby’ is definitely a movie where you do laugh and you do cry. We wanted you to laugh as hard as you cry. It’s such a heavy issue that it needed to be a charming coming-of-age love story.”
For their very first feature-length film, the cinematography of the Erwin brothers was skillfully executed, and the casting was superb. The actors did a phenomenal job of bringing to life these believable characters, with true reactions to these difficult life experiences.
What is even more extraordinary about this film is that it is based on the true story of the life of Gianna Jessen. Last October, Jessen touched Cedarville University with her vivacious presence and the heart-wrenching story of her birth and life as she spoke to the student body in chapel. She is a writer, a very talented singer, a national conference speaker, and an abortion survivor whose 17-year old mother attempted to terminate her 7-½ month pregnancy through a saline abortion.
When the Erwin brothers first heard Jessen speak, Andrew says that he and his brother were “broken and moved by her story.” They did not even understand that there was such a thing as an abortion survivor. Jon added that “it is mind blowing to see the life in her [Gianna].”
“She has one of the most wonderful, lively spirits I’ve ever seen,” Jon continued. “Above all else, I think that her life is beautiful. And it is a testament to the beauty of life in general, and to what the world would have lost if she had never been given the right to exist.”
In an article by Charisma Media, Jessen expressed her strong hesitation to the Erwin’s idea of producing the movie.
“I wanted nothing to do with this. I ran from these men,” Jessen stated in the article. “It’s hard to be defined by this one thing.”
After watching a special preview of the film, Jessen at last became a full-fledged promoter of “October Baby.” Not only had she laughed and cried throughout the film, but she felt a powerful sense of healing by the time the credits rolled. The movie’s soundtrack now features Jessen’s original song “Ocean Floor.” Jessen revealed that her road to healing has been marked by forgiveness and God’s overwhelming love for her.
The two Erwin filmmakers proudly boast of their faith in Christ, but they hope “October Baby” will appeal to everyone, despite their religious beliefs or where they stand on the issue of abortion. Sherwood Pastor Michael Catt, whose church’s film ministry produced “Fireproof” and “Courageous,” advocates for the film: “This is the kind of movie our culture desperately needs. ... There is power in this movie that can only be explained by the hand of God upon it.”