The untold history of Roe v. Wade for the history books and not the screen

By Nick Galin

Pittsboro, NC – Roe v. Wade is the 2021 film directed by Nick Loeb and Cathy Allyn that tells the true behind the scenes story of Roe v. Wade that touches on the truth of abortion and the abortion agenda manufactured in America that influenced the famous court case of Roe v. Wade. The story follows Dr. Bernard Nathanson (Nick Loeb) as he struggles with the truth of abortion and how there were a lot of unknown factors that influenced the decision of the Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade. The film tries to portray the corruption and influences that lead to the ultimate decision that was made at the Supreme Court case. Even though this sounds like a very compelling story and is a side of history that can and should be studied, the film falls flat on almost every aspect of film-making.

Before I jump into the downfalls of the film I would like to highlight some aspects of the film. There are some strong scenes in the film that are brilliant in its storytelling through the camera and sound. The scene with “The Golden Girls” is a perfect message the film is portraying about the American view of abortion at the time and how it relates to the messages of Hollywood. The classroom scenes with Joey Lawrence hit hard for anyone who has had college class discussions on hard hitting topics. There was one set-up and pay-off that the film painted brilliantly with Dr. Nathanson and the chess game he has with his father (Jeffrey Baruch) near the beginning of the film. His family claims “for the greater good” to his son during a chess game, which Dr. Nathanson is to exclaim later in the film when he is on the beach with Larry Lader (Jamie Kennedy) talking with two females on the beach on all the lies they have made for “the greater good.” This small set-up and pay-off in the film is a great piece of filmmaking that shows the potential that Loeb and Allyn have as filmmakers. I only wish the rest of the film could reflect this one small, beautiful moment of filmmaking.

The film is so concerned with a political agenda and painting a picture for the audience that it loses the basics to what makes a film great. The script is so heavy on a narrative voice from Loeb that it never allows the audience to form its own thoughts and make the connections in the film that are there. Narration is not a bad tool in filmmaking, but this film uses the narration as a crutch. There is almost not a single scene in this whole film where the film will not freeze on a frame and have the narrator describe exactly what is already happening and what the audience has already picked up on. The one scene in which Justice Blackmun (Corbin Bernsen) is speaking to his family and finds out about his family’s ties with Planned Parenthood is a scene that already tells the audience that this Justice is going to be influenced by his family in both the acting and composition of the scene. The script however is so lazy that it freeze frames on Justice Blackmun and the narration of Bernard Nathanson interrupts and exclaims that this is the second Justice with ties to Planned Parenthood. This is writing that does not trust the audience and rely on the visual aspects of a film or the actors in the film.

The film cares so little for the visual aspect that there is no cohesion in the cinematography of the film. The cinematographer seems to have set up the basic shots for each scene and just let the camera roll until the editor needed to cut to another shot. Some scenes cut off characters’ heads and some focus too much on headspace. This may seem like a cinematic characteristic of the film or cinematographer, but there was one scene where the camera left a lot of head room for Justice Burger (Jon Voight) and as the shot progresses you can see the camera start to tilt down slowly and shakily (not precise) to retreat from the extra headroom. The largest offense that this film has towards cinematography is the constant zooms that the film uses with lack of meaning. Almost every scene starts out with an establishing shot and a zoom thrown in there. This is not always bad, but there are also scenes that have about five or more zooms in total and it seems like they were just thrown in there to add some kind of unmotivated movement to the film clasping to make the scene impactful, but in reality, leaving the scene empty of any kind of character. The zooms were used so much throughout the film that when there was ever a shot of someone speaking something of importance, like in the courtroom when the lawyer for Wade is giving his final statement, it truly felt empty and lacking, because the film treated its camera movements, with very little care in the world, which takes away from any story told on film.

A film should be a visual representation of a story. The story, though Robert McKee would disagree, is not the most important part of any film, because if the story is not told through a cinematic means it has no place being a film, but should rather rely on another medium for its tale. The downfall of this film is that it is trying to tell too much. The film is all over the place with characters and the many storylines it is trying to follow. Stacey Dash’s and Joey Lawrence’s characters are mixed into this story to give depth; but though I enjoyed their characters they added very little to the larger story that was taking place and their characters were not fleshed out more, which was a real shame. Loeb and Allyn are so concerned with the viewpoint of the film and trying to tell all the information it jumbles everything up and it does not allow for a cohesive film that flows well and gives weight to the cinematic language. Directors, like Jean-Luc Godard and Robert Altman, have shown how to create films with a strong message through the language of cinema.

Loeb and Allyn are telling a story that needs to be told, but they are going about it in the wrong way. For all the information they wanted to tell a book or article is more suitable than a film, but I think the reason why they wanted to make the film was because all that information is out there and a film would organize the information more, though that may or may not be true they missed the mark on making this a film with a message, but rather created a message with forgetful visuals. I wish they had taken time to sit down and flesh out the script and the film as a whole for the story is there, but it gets lost in the noise of the film, like the truth behind the Roe v. Wade case that gets lost in the noise of the world.