One of the descriptors that is thrown around too often when describing a work of art is “Important” (with a capital “I”). But I saw a movie on Tuesday that I would argue deserves that capital-letter descriptor.
Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer is an independent film based on the harrowing true story of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortion provider in Philadelphia who was responsible for the death of at least 1 pregnant woman, along with the brutal death of at least 8 babies born alive during abortion procedures. This is a sensational news story that you may have never heard about, because as these true events were discovered and prosecuted, national media outlets were very slow to cover the details of the story.
And let me quickly add here: this isn’t simply a movie “about abortion” or merely an “anti-abortion” story. This is a story about women’s health, about the dignity of patients in a time of crisis, and the callous indifference of bureaucratic inaction in order to avoid controversy.
The film production is top-notch, especially considering the size of their budget. Some of the CGI effects were a little unrealistic, and a few of the minor performances were wooden, but on the whole, the acting and production values were excellent. As writer/producer Ann McElhinney stated in a recent interview, this movie is meant to have the feel of a Law and Order episode, so that the viewer is caught up in the story. I can confirm this; even knowing how it ended, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.
I have to admit, though: while it’s not as graphic as it could have been, not by a long-shot, it is a hard watch at times. So use your judgment, if you are sensitive to the subject matter or have concerns about PG-13 language. And this is probably not a good movie to take younger kids to, though teenagers should be fine.
The film is an adaptation of McElhinney’s bestselling non-fiction book of the same name, covering the discovery of Gosnell’s crimes and the details of the case. Some of the names are changed, and some of the scenes are dramatized, but the most chilling, unbelievable details of this story are all actually documented and verifiable. Kermit Gosnell is, by all accounts, a legitimate sociopath who practiced abortions in Philadelphia for decades. He violated dozens if not hundreds of health and safety regulations and risked the lives of his adult patients, all the while under the protection of a Pennsylvania statehouse and health department that refused to enforce its own regulations against the abortionist.
Other writers have noted how the movie has fared in terms of media coverage (not much better than the actual case, to be honest). NPR refused to run advertisements unless the filmmakers removed the word “abortionist” from the ad copy. Facebook has removed advertisements and blocked posts for “offensive” and “political” content. Some have documented theaters suddenly pulling the film or randomly cancelling screenings. Nevertheless, the film brought in $1.8 million in its first week, good enough for #11 in the box office (despite showing on fewer than 700 screens).
More movies are opening in theaters every weekend, so if Gosnell doesn’t do a brisk business, it will be gone from the theaters very soon. It’s ironic that a cineplex currently full of make-believe monsters and Hollywood hauntings is crowding out a true story of actual human horror that has been largely ignored.
So here’s my challenge for you, dear readers: Go see Gosnell this week–tonight, if possible. And take your friends.
If you don’t see it soon, you’ll probably have to wait until it reaches home video. If you think this story deserves to be heard, support it with your dollars and your feet by heading to your local theater over the next few days.
In a world full of noise and “fake news,” this story about the dignity of human life and the darkness of the human heart is truly Important.
Addendum: If you went to see Gosnell after reading this post, please comment below and let me know what you thought! And if you’ve seen the film already, I’d love to get your take on it in the comments, as well!