A married woman with an unwanted pregnancy lives in a time in America where she can’t get a legal abortion and works with a group of suburban women to find help.

Editing: Peter McNulty
Isabella Summers

Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver, Chris Messina, Kate Mara, Wunmi Mosauku, Cory Michael Smith, Grace Edwards, Kristina Harrison, Rebecca Henderson, Aida Turturro

Directors: Phyllis Nagy
Writers: Hayley Schore, Roshan Sethi
Cinematography: Greta Zozula

Call Jane releasing in 2021 may have been a call to celebrate how far we’ve come and how we can still move further when it comes to the rights of women and POC. But the film didn’t release last year; it releases on Prime Video at the back-end of 2022 when Roe v Wade was overturned earlier this year in the U.S. With that in mind, the film feels lacklustre. The ending, a ‘let’s move to the next battle’ moment, feels odd as it’s not over, and women all over the U.S (and other places around the world, mind you) are fighting for the right to choose what they do with their bodies.

Not to be confused with the HBO documentary, The Janes, the Prime Video film is a fictionalised recount of women who used underground networks and secret codes to provide women with affordable abortions before Roe v Wade. Elizabeth Banks stars as Joy, an upper-class housewife who’s about to have her second child with her husband, played by Chris Messina. But when she learns that the child is causing her heart issues and could lead to her death, she seeks approval from the hospital to abort the baby to save her own life, which they deny. That scene, a perfect showcase for how men treated women and are looking to do so again in America, see’s Joy sitting in a room of older white doctors discussing her body as if she’s not sitting there. 

Joy eventually stumbles upon a poster suggesting you “call Jane” if you need help. This leads her to a secret group of women working together with a male doctor charging $600 for an abortion. The film doesn’t shy away from the awkward, scary and lonely feeling of the procedure either as Joy lays on a table in a room, in a location she isn’t even aware of after being blindfolded to get there. The camera moving between Elizabeth Banks, attempting not to scream in pain or cry as the procedure happens, is hard to watch, but as it should be. 

Everything else in Call Jane lacks the same punch that left me feeling a little lacklustre about the film. When Joy is introduced to Virginia (Sigourney Weaver), the woman running the ‘Janes,’ it’s a strong performance by Weaverbut there’s a lack of danger felt, even if it’s talked about. Virginia mentions paying off the mob and always being on the lookout for cops and the risk of imprisonment, but you never feel it. The film shows a couple of secret knocks on doors, one time a password is asked for, but as Joy falls into the group of Janes and looks to begin helping them, there’s no worry from her or induction into the danger of the world she’s entering. 

Call Jane is a well-made film with solid performances, but whether it’s the screenplay or the direction, there needs to be more conviction with the real story here, and instead, an almost happy-gloss washes over the fact to make the fiction more enjoyable for viewers.