Thoughts on ‘The A Word’

A brief look at the controversial and moving documentary by USC film student, Lindsay Ellis.

Student filmmaker Lindsay Ellis’ USC project, The “A” Word, is a documentary focusing on the highly controversial subject of abortion, and the effect it has on the people who go through it.

I watched the project’s progress on Lindsay’s blog as she shared her project’s various stages.  From the first moment I learned that she would be openly discussing a subject that the mere mention of the word flares emotions and opinions, I knew I’d want to see the finished product. Add to the fact that the reason she has elected for this subject matter for her documentary because she has been through this herself, well…wow.  That takes balls. Big, fat, hairy balls. So I had to get myself a copy of it.

It arrived just the other day, taking less than a week to cross the great pond. I’ve since watched it twice in order to gather my thoughts and opinions on the whole thing, and now I’m going to share.

So sit down, be quiet, and let me tell you all about it.

The documentary follows Lindsay as she seeks out other people who have been through the same experience as her.

What starts as a potentially blase introduction to the subject of abortion quickly submerges into something much deeper.

It also shows the effects that her own experience had on her, the would-be father, and her parents.  While it does focus on a number of people who have been affected by abortion in various ways, it is largely a personal experience showing Lindsay coming to terms with her own decision.

I have no shame in admitting that I spent a good portion of the 30 minutes run time either in tears or on the verge of them, and I’m not talking pissy little “Oh no, Mufasa’s dead” kind of tears, I’m talking really vicious and sympathetic tears. Because the problem with doing a documentary on something that touches so very close to home is that it is still difficult to maintain any kind of distance from the subject matter.  It shows constantly during Lindsay’s screen time; she spends a lot of it looking almost lost, or just confused.  It’s clear that she does not know whether the decision she made was the right thing to do.

When life throws you lemons, turn to Jesus.

The documentary also highlights the fact that there is little support for women after they have decided to terminate a pregnancy, other than in the solace of God, which assumes that people will regret their decisions.  This leads to some of the most moving and also the harshest content in the film: while at an anti-abortion rally and after hearing others speak up about their experiences, Lindsay decides to speak herself.  The emotion behind her eyes and in her voice are nigh on impossible to put into words.

The whole film is very raw, very upfront, and it doesn’t hold back for the sake of the sensitive matters being discussed.

Is it perfect? No, of course not.  I had some sound level issues throughout, and I would’ve appreciated subtitles in these parts.  There were also some scenes, particularly the transitionary ones, that I felt were added purely for effect.  Some worked well, others did not.

But overall, the documentary covered the spectrum of reasons behind abortion, allowed open and frank discussion of both sides of the matter, and granted time for everyone to say their piece.  It managed to do so without coming across as preachy on either side, and the vast majority of the scenes had genuine emotion that practically emanated through the screen.

The film closes on the valid point that abortion isn’t really about political points and pro-lifer protests. Its implications rest solely on the shoulders of the women who go through it, the people they involve, and their lives as a result.

“The ‘A’ Word” is well worth a watch.  It is interesting, insightful, and most of all, it’s very honest.

[rating:4]

The ‘A’ Word is something you should really see in order to fully understand. If you would like to grab yourself a copy, while simultaneously helping Lindsay and the production team in their efforts to get “The ‘A’ Word” onto the film festival circuit, please check out her blog here.

(I’m well aware that Lindsay is probably best known online as The Nostalgia Chick of TGWTG.com (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my Procrastination Station on TGWTG.). I’m sure Lindsay appreciates how this persona has brought much additional attention for her unrelated projects, but this was separate to her work for Channel Awesome, which is why I made no mention of it. Until now. Oops.)