Last night my film distributor/critic friend and I watched Todd Solondz‘s film Palindromes (2004). This film provides a biting social commentary on the abortion debate in the U.S. One of the blurbs on the DVD case describes the film as “corrosively funny.” It definitely is corrosive and at times it’s funny; my primary thought while watching the film was one of surprise — surprise at the shots Solondz took at both sides of the abortion debate (among other things). This film is not subtle, many scenes hit you like a two-by-four.
This film tells the story of a young woman named Aviva (note the palindrome), who grows up in a middle-class Jewish home with nice liberal parents (played well by Ellen Barkin and Richard Masur). Aviva wants nothing from life but a baby — a boyfriend or husband is not necessary. This desire leads her to her first sexual experience as a thirteen-year-old. She gets pregnant but then has an abortion at the behest of her parents (she has a hysterectomy due to complications with the abortion, though she is never told that she can’t have children). Aviva then runs away, still determined to get pregnant one way or another. Instead, she has a surreal journey from the suburbs of New Jersey, through Ohio to the plains of Kansas and back. To let you know what happens on her journey would reveal too much of the plot — suffice it to say that things come full circle (again a palindrome) though you are not sure if anything has really changed.
The film is clever (e.g., the palindrome structure, as well as the fact that Aviva’s character is played by a number of different actresses), philosophical, and will force you to reflect on your view about abortion. It may offend some on both sides of the debate, though as piece of social criticism it is worth viewing (it was released in the US without a rating, while the Canadian Home Video Rating is 14A). The film had a very limited screening, but the DVD will be released this fall.