Directors: Cathy Allyn and Nick Loeb
Starring: Nick Loeb, Stacey Dash, Jamie Kennedy, Joey Lawrence, Robert Davi, John Schneider, Greer Grammer, William Forsythe, Steve Guttenberg, Summer Joy Campbell, Corbin Bernsen and Jon Voight
Run time: 1h 51min
Certificate: PG-13 (US) / 12A (UK)
Roe v. Wade has been dubbed the most controversial Supreme Court decision in US history. Inspired by the true and shocking events of almost 50 years ago, directors Cathy Allyn and Nick Loeb (both also on screenwriting duties with Ken Kushner) bring to life a compelling and fascinating dramatization of a topic that still divides millions to this day.
In 1969, Norma McCorvey (Summer Joy Campbell) is pregnant with her third child, her previous two taken into adoptive care due to her issues with drink and drugs. Living in Texas where abortion is illegal (except when necessary to save the mother’s life), she’s approached by two female lawyers who represent her in a fight to win the right to terminate her pregnancy. She’s renamed Jane Roe to protect her anonymity and to prevent having her background examined.
The titular Wade is Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade (James DuMont), already a known name due to his participation in the prosecution of Jack Ruby for killing Lee Harvey Oswald. Here, he’s representing the state of Texas. The case reaches the Supreme Court in a landmark hearing that changed the face of American politics and split a nation into two distinct camps. Pro-choice and pro-life.
Leading both ideologies is Dr Bernard Nathanson (Nick Loeb) and Dr Mildred Jefferson (Stacey Dash), respectively. When a relationship ends in tragedy, Bernard becomes a doctor determined to help women in need of an abortion. He’s making a small fortune performing terminations and at first appears morally bankrupt. As abortion becomes legal in New York, he campaigns to make it ‘available on demand’ across America.
Mildred, on the other hand, is a black woman trying to forge a successful career in a predominantly man’s world and having to deal with all the sexism and racism that accompany it in the 1970s. She’s determined to uphold the Hippocratic Oath she took, which morally binds her to the preservation of life.
At the helm, directors Cathy Allyn and Nick Loeb present both sides of the argument well, although this is very much a pro-life film. Using archive footage and flashbacks, Nathanson occasionally narrates as we follow much of the unfolding drama from his point of view. Changing abortion techniques are showcased with a callous efficiency and the dark side of the procedure is explored within the constraints of the film’s certificate. However, what’s quite astonishing as the two sides go up against each other, is the manipulation, deception and blatant lies behind the case; Statistics plucked from thin air and not challenged, blackmail between friends, bribery to get your message across to the masses and women being exploited in the name of women’s rights. Nothing new to politics, but highlighted here to show what a vicious and dirty world it is. Fake news indeed.
Allyn and Loeb have assembled a spectacularly talented cast including Robert Davi, Jon Voight, Jamie Kennedy, Steve Guttenberg and John Schneider to name a few, but it’s Loeb and Dash that stand out. Bernard’s journey is a complex one climaxing in an emotional and moving revelation. Mildred’s fierce, yet quiet, determination make her a formidable opponent and it’s a powerhouse performance from Dash. It’s also worth mentioning the excellent scenes featuring teacher Robert Byrn (Joey Lawrence) and his students. As they debate the pros and cons of the sensitive subject of abortion, some thought-provoking dilemmas are raised which leave you with plenty to think about. Throughout, there’s a wonderful score from Will Musser delicately accompanying some of the more poignant moments.
Roe v. Wade is an extremely well-crafted and intriguing insight into a pivotal moment in American history. Morally challenging and dramatically revealing, the debate over abortion will continue and this movie might not sway you one way or the other, but it’s well worth listening to.
Roe v. Wade is now available for pre-order on iTunes, here, and will be released on April 2nd 2021.