Although the film, like Vera Drake a few years back, doesn’t debate the rights and wrongs of abortion (just another of the facts of life), it has something for both sides of the argument. It has, on one side, again like Vera Drake, a hazardous backstairs modus vivendi for which no one could be nostalgic and to which no one would choose to return. And on the other side it has, in a towel on the bathroom floor, an unmistakably human fetus whose exact age is told in the title, and only there. (The expectant mother is prone to waffle.) The rights and wrongs of it can’t be properly debated till we’ve clarified what “it” is. The fetus, as “real” as everything else in the film, makes it clear.
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One of the stifling things about today’s movie scene is the sameness of the lineup from one multiplex to the next. So I warmed to the occasion when, last Friday, three movies opened in town to exclusive runs outside the Landmark chain: John Sayles’s Honeydripper at the downtown Horton Plaza, George Romero’s Diary of the Dead at the Palm Promenade in Chula Vista, and Adam Marcus’s (whose?) Conspiracy at the Del Mar Highlands in North County. A throwback, this, to the early days of the Reader, before multiplexes, before video stores, before homogenization, when I would routinely range from El Cajon to Oceanside to see a film in the one place it could be seen: some B-grade exploitation film, some dubbed Italian erotic thriller, some unsubtitled Mexican melodrama, some dust-gathering decade-old Western. Admittedly, it is not unusual for the Horton Plaza to have an exclusive run, and still less unusual for John Sayles. But the Romero took me to a theater where I had never been before, our largest number of auditoriums under one roof, Auditorium #21, in specific, out of twenty-four. Neither had I ever been to the Del Mar theater, which seems to be making a practice of offering brief refuge, en route to the video shelf, to easily ignorable action films featuring such over-the-hill action figures as Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme. (Films projected, it turns out, in digital video.) But Val Kilmer is on my good side — for Tombstone and Spartan, he always will be — and not so easily ignored. When the dust settled at weekend’s end, it wasn’t the films that had afforded pleasure; it was the necessity.