May 26, 2019
Welcome back to another week of reviews, this time mostly focused on Netflix Originals, and a couple of Netflix exclusives, including another Fantastic Fest feature from Andrew Campbell, and the third highest grossing film of the year that you’ve probably never heard of. We also have the return of Philly Film Fan (aka Keith Lyons) and One Movie Spouse (aka Amy Dobzynski), so it’s going to be a great week.
For our Sunday reviews, I try to find a review that either resonates with today’s news cycle or compliments another film showing later in the week. In this case, I can do both at once. So, as the resident mansplainer on staff here at One Movie Punch, I’d like to...
Amy: Maybe let a woman speak? Hi, this is Amy, aka One Movie Spouse, and it’s more important than ever to get informed about the latest attacks on a woman’s right to choose.
Joseph: Great, I...
Amy: I’m not done yet. Today’s throwback film outlines the history of abortion access in the United States, along with the current attacks on a woman’s right to choose safe and legal abortion. If you don’t understand the complexity of the issue, nor why this right is so essential, today’s film will help. It will also help explain why today’s attacks are so heinous.
Joseph: Right, so...
Amy: Still not done. “Reversing Roe” currently sits at an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 70 on Metacritic. You can catch the documentary streaming on Netflix. Get informed, and get ready to vote like your lady parts depend on it!
Amy: “Okay. You may continue.”
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Here we go!
Today’s movie is “Reversing Roe” (2018), the Netflix Original documentary from Anne Sundberg and Ricki Stern. The documentary reviews the forty-five year history of the landmark decision Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide. It reviews the details of the original case, the efforts to subvert the ruling by state legislators and conservative opponents, and the activists mobilizing to protect the right to safe and legal abortion.
I’ve taken multiple positions on abortion over the years, struggling with trying to reconcile the desire to see life flourish and the need to protect female autonomy, especially over their reproductive systems. The last few years, I’ve been firmly on the side of female autonomy at all costs, especially as women are still treated as second-class citizens in so many ways, whether that’s the pay gap, or the catcalling, or the sexual harassment and abuse, or the mansplaining... the list goes on. No question that we’ve come a long way since suffrage, but there’s still so much further to go. It’s not like passing laws necessarily leads to change, and that blade cuts both ways. Granting women the right to vote by law didn’t suddenly make toxic masculinity and traditional gender roles disappear. And the same goes for abortion rights. Ruling on Roe vs. Wade may have made abortion a legal right, but it certainly didn’t stop the far-right from continuing to harass and obstruct women from seeking an abortion, nor from mounting a concerted campaign to overturn the ruling. Which is where today’s movie comes in.
“Reversing Roe” is an excellent summary of the history of abortion rights, from coat-hangers and rogue doctors to the passing of Roe vs. Wade, and the subsequent mobilization of the far-right anti-abortion activists that went to challenge the ruling from day one, from any possible angle, at the cost of millions of dollars and more than a few lives, particularly those killed in anti-abortion terrorism. I particularly liked the portion that covered the years from George W Bush onward, and how stacking the Supreme Court would one day overturn the ruling, which was the point. This documentary feels particularly important as we go through the current kabuki theater for a Supreme Court Justice, one who appears to be the epitome of toxic masculinity I discussed before. In fact, working to stack the Supreme Court works not just for this issue, but a host of other issues to follow. Instead of finding the best and brightest for the highest court in the land, we have one party instead looking for the purist ideologically on multiple issues, hidden under the sweet sounding words of “strict constitutionalism”.
This film has the right content in the right amount of time. It also has an obvious pro-choice bias, as does your reviewer, but it’s from a considered and well-reasoned position, based on both science and basic principles, not just pink hats and protest signs, even if this film has some of that as well. One area where the film is lacking, however, is what’s next, which we’re left to infer is a combination of electoral office and activism, and sometimes both in the case of Wendy Davis. The ending is ominous, warning everyone that it is just a matter of time before it will be overturned. And that’s probably true, but not exactly a rallying cry to fight, nor does it address the host of other issues women will face should they return to second-class citizenship. Folks like to point to “The Handmaid’s Tale” as this unrealistic dystopia, but the truth is that it’s not far off from how women were treated before suffrage and women’s liberation. I want to prevent that future for all women, and I want to do that knowing I’m taking their lead towards that end. The Women’s March was amazing, and as I said before, there’s so much further to go.
“Reversing Roe” (2018) is an excellent educational tool for anyone looking for an overview of abortion rights history. While it has an obvious pro-choice bias, it’s well-reasoned and raises very real concerns about the effect of ending abortion rights for women. Fans of documentaries about the subject will definitely enjoy this film, but so may abortion opponents, if nothing else but to understand the concerns being raised.