Call Jane Movie Review and Movie Synopsis (2022)

“Call Jane” opens with this scene, and while it’s not explicitly tied to the main plot, it’s an example of what the movie does really well (and there could be more). Directed by Phyllis Nagy, with a script by Hayley Schore and Roshan Sethi, “Call Jane” is set before Roe v. Wade, where women had no choice but to move into illegal and dangerous territory in order to make the choices they needed to make with their own bodies. (The timing of “Call Jane” is odd, to say the least.) Joy’s personal journey is important – and central – but, just as in the first scene, it takes place in a larger context, a context that Joy was able to avoid so far. Through her own situation, she is pulled into a larger space where she finds abilities she never knew she had. In other words, “Call Jane” isn’t just the story of one woman. It’s in favor of the film.

Joy and Will have an overall happy marriage and a teenage daughter named Charlotte (Grace Edwards). Joy is pregnant again and she can tell something is wrong. Her doctor tells her the bad news: she’s developed congestive heart failure, and the only way to reverse it would be (long pause) “withdrawal.” Joy has a 50/50 chance of surviving the pregnancy. The comfortable and complacent world of Joy and Will is thrown into chaos. To get approval for the “therapy break”, the couple must meet with the hospital’s board of directors (all men). Joy comes in with a bright smile and carrying a plate of cookies. The men talk about her as if she weren’t there and vote unanimously against the life-saving procedure. Joy does not want to die. Will tries to hope for the best, but keeps saying things like, “I wish I could fix this!” He can not.

By chance, Joy sees a leaflet taped to a telephone pole: “Pregnant? Need help? Call Jane!”

This is Joy’s entry into the Jane Collective, a group of Chicago women who have formed an underground organization to help women obtain safe abortions (with aftercare). (“The Janes”, a documentary released in June this year, tells the story of this group). Joy makes the call. A woman named Gwen (Wunmi Mosaku) picks her up, blindfolds her, and leads her to a place where entry is granted after a secret knock. The “procedure” costs $600, and the doctor, Gwen informs Joy, has an awful bedside manner but “he’s the best we’ve got.” Dr. Dean (Cory Michael Smith) lives up to his reputation. Afterwards, Joy is blindfolded again and is taken to another location, where she meets the rest of the “Janes”. The leader is Virginia (Sigourney Weaver), a battle-scarred veteran of all kinds of cultural and political wars. She’s tough, practical, and used to dealing with shady characters, including the mob (who provide low rents for their secret locations as well as, presumably, protection). Joy continues to insist that she can leave, but Virginia lays down the law and explains to her exactly what is happening to her body and what she can expect in the days to come.

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