VOD film review: Obvious Child
Ivan Radford | On 06, Jan 2015
Director: Gillian Robespierre
Cast: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann
Watch Obvious Child online in the UK: TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
“You know what makes you special?” best friend Nellie (Hoffmann) asks Donna (Slate). “I’m really good at folding laundry?” comes the sad reply. “No, you’re unapologetically yourself on stage.”
That’s the one thing you can definitely say about the heroine of Obvious Child: Donna Stern, a stand-up comedian, is never sorry for being her. She farts in front of people. She tells strangers about her love life. And when she does find herself on a date with a nice, Christian boy, she encourages him to pee in the street.
Sure enough, one thing leads to another and she and Max (Lacy) end up in bed together. It is only several days later, as Donna hides in a cardboard box in her friend’s book shop, that she realises what has happened: she is pregnant. And so she breaks up with Max, debates whether to tell her mum about her ovened bun, and goes on stage and blurts out how she feels.
Jenny Slate is fantastic as the endearing loser, letting loose with a candid string of one-liners and confessions, which constantly cut into the rest of the action. Jake Lacy is just as good, their romance evolving with an un-workshopped casualness, while Gillian Robespierre stitches it together with the freewheeling, shambolic nature of real life.
The film, based on a short the director made with Karen Maine and Anna Bean, has been praised by many for its stance on the thorny subject of pregnancy – and, specifically, abortion. It’s true that, in a country where the idea of aborting an unborn child is greeted by a strong anti-movement, Obvious Child should be heralded for discussing the possibility of taking either option: it is a film that treats a rarely tackled topic with honesty, humour and compassion. It is a funny film, but it is also a significant film.
What makes Obvious Child stand out as such a fantastic piece of art, though, is that it treats this topic in the same way it treats everything else. Honesty, humour and compassion are not restricted to any particular subject; they apply to every part of Donna’s existence. Pregnancy is another step in her life, not the thing that defines it. Obvious Child is adorable, amusing and, crucially, a film in which every joke is character-driven, from angry break-up jabs to quips about clothes. It’s unapologetically itself. And that makes it very special indeed.