Call Jane

An ad in Ladies Home Journal said it best when it warned us to “never underestimate the power of a woman.” Though the ad first appeared in a 1941 edition of the magazine, it wasn’t until the ’60s that we all learned the power of that lesson. And it’s been a downhill slide for male domination, sexism, and misogynistic tendencies ever since.

That message is perfectly illustrated in Phyllis Nagy’s latest film, Call Jane which explores the sobering and painful history of reproductive choice in America, while simultaneously recognizing and celebrating the contributions of women to modern society.

"provocative and stimulating, yet never comes off as preachy"

The film takes an introspective look at The Janes, a collective of women in the late ‘60s who came together to help provide access to reproductive freedom to Chicago women of all walks of life. Though The Janes were a real thing, Call Jane fictionalizes their spirit and goals with a story that is both provocative and stimulating, yet never comes off as preachy.

Joy (a wonderful Elizabeth Banks) is the quintessential suburban housewife. Loving wife to husband Will (Chris Messina), and mother to teenage daughter Charlotte (Grace Edwards), Joy learns that her current pregnancy has caused some heart issues leaving her with a 50% chance of surviving the delivery of her baby.

Having run out of options, but also wanting to ensure she’ll be around for their daughter, Joy and Will petition the board of their local hospital for an emergency pregnancy termination. But, wouldn’t you know it, the board is made up of old white men who discuss the petition as if Joy isn’t even in the room.

Ultimately, the board decides to deny the emergency termination leaving Joy with either a 50-50 shot at dying, or getting an abortion. Problem is, this is Chicago in 1968 where abortions are illegal. So down the rabbit hole she goes chasing a lead that eventually draws her to the Jane Collective, led by the pragmatic Virginia (Sigourney Weaver), who raises money for the group, coordinates their actions, and ensures women are taken care of with dignity and respect.Call Jane

As expected, the elephant in the room is the hot button topic of abortion. However, to steer viewers away from political side-taking, Nagy and screenwriters Hayley Schore and Roshan Sethi present their story with a light touch in a fair, and balanced manner by masterfully blending many other narratives into the mix. As a result, viewers are never bludgeoned over the head, but instead, invited to join the tough conversations which touch on abortion, race, personal choice, human dignity, and historical advancement.

That’s certainly a gargantuan task considering the subject matter, but the cast of wonderful characters played by Kate Mara, Kristina Harrison, Corey Michael Smith, Evangeline Young, and others, keeps it a human story about one woman’s choice, the personal struggles of making that choice, and her decision to help others in similar situations navigate the emotional toll of those decisions.

A bit fidgety and eventually losing steam in its third act, Call Jane feels a bit long at times, and more than one plot thread is oddly left hanging. However, the genuinely heartbreaking scenes involving the procedures as delivered by a shady “doctor” will leave you shaking in your skin. Truly graphic and alone responsible for the film’s R rating.

Call Jane isn’t asking you to buy in to what it has to say. It just wants to present the dilemma at hand in a captivating and stimulating manner, while at the same time reminding us of that powerful lesson we learned from Ladies Home Journal so long ago. Mission accomplished.

3/5 stars

Film Details

Call Jane

MPAA Rating: R for some language and brief drug use.
121 mins
: Phyllis Nagy
Hayley Schore; Roshan Sethi
Elizabeth Banks; Sigourney Weaver; Chris Messina
: Drama
You are not alone.
Memorable Movie Quote:
Theatrical Distributor:
Roadside Attractions
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 28, 2022.
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: 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.


Call Jane