Brisk, upbeat and brimming with positivity, Call Jane is both emphatically timely – it deals with an undercover band of women in the late 60s and the early 70s who provided safe abortions outside the law – and tonally somewhat jarring. The directorial debut of Phyllis Nagy (previously best known as the screenwriter of Todd Haynes’s Carol) was presumably conceived as a stirring, factually based period piece. But since the seismic changes in the reproductive rights landscape in the US, it is a subject that takes on an urgency that feels a little at odds with the peppy, upbeat approach of the storytelling. This, of course, is hardly the fault of the film-makers, or of this entertaining, if not exactly heavyweight, movie.
The very watchable combination of Elizabeth Banks, as a suburban Chicago housewife turned illegal abortion technician, and Sigourney Weaver, as the founder of “Call Jane”, brings a force of charisma that overrides the picture’s occasional frothiness. And the grainy, richly saturated look of the picture – it was shot on film – plus the meaty soundtrack choices, floods the film with swaggering 60s authenticity.