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If These Walls Could Talk

Demi Moore , Shirley Knight , Cher , Nancy Savoca    Unrated   VHS Tape
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Virtually no one is ambivalent about abortion; the issue polarizes people like no other. HBO tackles the subject head-on with a trilogy of shorts, and, regardless of your opinion on the topic, If These Walls Could Talk is a bold and provocative examination of how the laws and attitudes about abortion in the United States have both changed drastically and remained so much the same.

Three women, three time periods, one house: each finds herself in trouble and must face the overwhelming decision about what to do with the unwanted pregnancy. The first segment is the most powerful, featuring Demi Moore as a young, recently widowed nurse in 1952. With no one to turn to and limited financial means, her options are few. Catherine Keener costars as her harshly judgmental sister-in-law. The next piece occurs in 1974, as Sissy Spacek, a mother of four who is trying to earn a college degree, discovers she's pregnant with her fifth child. Her utterly modern feminist daughter encourages Spacek to get a newly legal abortion, but it's a complex decision. In the final segment, college student Anne Heche becomes pregnant by her married professor. Her best friend, played by Jada Pinkett, is resolutely against abortion and the two wrangle over right and wrong. As the young woman tries to learn about her options, she finds herself enmeshed in the pro-life demonstrations outside the abortion clinic. Cher, who directs this segment (the other two are directed by Nancy Savoca), costars as a doctor at the clinic.

While trying to be evenhanded and demonstrating the different choices different women make, the film does have a decidedly pro-choice leaning. Yet the power of the movie is undeniable and it raises significant questions on both sides of the abortion debate, making it an important film for women (and men) everywhere to watch and talk about. --Jenny Brown


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Take on a Continuing Controversy April 13 2001
Format:VHS Tape
This trilogy of stories is both powerful and thought provoking. The movie follows the stories of three women of different eras who are conflicted regarding their unplanned pregnancies. While fictional in form, in reality it reflects the changing views and policies toward abortion from the 1950's to the present era.
The setting of all three segments is in a single house. This masterful production/directorial technique seems to be symbolic for an issue which has always been controversial to many. As the house becomes more and more dilapidated over each segment, we also see that the right to abortion is becoming a compoundingly fragile right that could be taken away at any time. Instead of gaining strength over time, the volatile issue is subject to the demands of the political party in command.
The dynamics of the eras are reflected so realistically in each segment, that a viewer cannot help but to be actively drawn into the drama. The segments feature all-star casts including such heavy hitters as Demi Moore, Sissy Spacek, Cher, Anne Heche, and Jada Pinkett. Cher deserves special attention for both directing and acting in the excellent third segment.
Rather than pro-choice, I think the video challenges us to think, "What if there were no choice?" This is recommended viewing for women and men alike, and this movie will stay in your thoughts for a long time to come.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A picture is worth a thousand words... Jan. 4 2001
Format:VHS Tape
This is an incredibly powerful film, and I agree with other reviewers that it solidly argues the pro-choice stance on abortion. Not only are the stories of women who choose abortions portrayed, but the story of a woman (Sissy Spacek) who decides that she could only live with herself if she keeps her baby is also featured. Part of me wants to recommend that only grown women with strong stomachs view this film (cold steel and substantial blood loss make me cringe) and part of me wants to beg every mother to watch this movie with her daughter and talk about what choice and freedom really mean. Before Roe vs. Wade, women died for the mistakes they made. Today they don't have to. This movie wasn't easy to watch. It had a powerful message to deliver, and I think that all the people who helped make this film must have believed very strongly in what they were doing.
Concerning the actual acting and direction, it was superb. Cher's acting has never been better, and Demi Moore was also phenomenal. The structure of the film, which is divided into three sections (one in the 50s, one in the 70s, and one in the 90s) was really engaging. One house is the setting for most of the movie. As the times change and tenants move, different women who live in the house become the focus of the movie. This movie was entertaining and it even taught me something. If you are interested in learning more about abortions before the Roe vs. Wade decision, I recommend the novel The Cider House Rules.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, a bit political, but... June 23 2004
Format:DVD
I found this movie a bit political, yes, but it was a very well done movie. I am pro-life and did not find this movie offensive in any way. I felt for the women portrayed here. Those who complain about the political approach are only mad because it is not their belief. If you feel very strongly against abortion, DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE. Everyone else, watch and think.
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1.0 out of 5 stars If These Walls Could Preach & Nag May 17 2004
By A Customer
Format:DVD
By the end of this "bold, provocative" film there's such a smug, desperate self-righteousness that I'm surprised the filmmakers didn't morph the faces of pro-lifers into rats and call for their extinction.
Anyone who finds this film balanced has to be so far removed from reality that the STAR WARS films could be considered documentaries for NASA.
To be perfectly honest, I've stayed out of the abortion debate and rarely offer any opinion, but films like this annoy for their arrogance and, yes, condescension for their "enemies." Go ahead and have a deranged religious fanatic make a martyr out of the abortion doctor--but show us what that abortion doctor does as well. Once the audience sees what happens in a clinic, they could understand how wackos can resort to violence.
Bold? Hardly. Provocative? Not this time.
The drama was tossed aside for a political speech.
The biggest problem I have with the film is that young women will watch it as a "educational" film when it barely qualifies as "entertainment."
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4.0 out of 5 stars Walls and Bridges March 28 2004
Format:DVD
When this film was first broadcast on HBO back in 1996, I found it quite compelling. Yes, it had its less than subtle moments, but for a made-for-cable movie, it was pretty darn effective, I thought. The anthology approach--three stories from three different eras in recent history (the 50s, the 70s and the mid-90s)--effectively portrayed the shift in attitudes toward abortion in the US over the past several decades and how its legalization has profoundly altered women's lives. The film's occasional heavyhandedness was not unexpected, but the top flight cast seemed to overcome the script's occasional lapses into preachiness. And overall, it seemed to reflect as balanced a treatment of a complex issue as you could possibly hope for (while definitely maintaining a "pro-choice" perspective throughout).
Or so it seemed at the time. On re-viewing the film recently, I found I had less patience with its flaws for some reason. I have little argument with the pro-choice point of view being advanced by the film. Indeed the film's message that such a choice is almost never anything but traumatic is a potent one and one that abortion rights opponents need always to keep in mind.
But it doesn't invalidate the film's message to say that it probably could have been handled with more subtlety. There are a number of moments in all three films that could have used a leavening touch, but I'll limit myself to one from the third installment (SPOILER WARNING): namely the shoot-up in the clinic that serves as the film's climax.
As someone else pointed out below, by the mid-90s most abortion clinics had metal detectors. Gunmen outside the clinics remained a hazard, but there is no reported case of abortion providers getting shot on the premises (none that I am aware of anyway).
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly memorable
Abortionï¿s current sound bite nature means that both sides of the debate forget the women wanting control of their own bodies--and lives. Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2004 by Robin Orlowski
5.0 out of 5 stars POWERFUL
wow, this movie was so incredibly powerful! Beware it might scare you and make you cry, but how amazing is it to have a handful of excellent actors doing a small feature film... Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A movie story pertinent today
This movie is about unwanted pregnancies and the issue of abortion. One in the 1950s, 1970s and 1990s. All affect people that live in the same house. Read more
Published on June 14 2003 by atmj
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling--For Both Women & Men
It does not matter whether you are Pro-Life or Pro-Choice, this film is excellent & compelling in so many directions. Read more
Published on June 7 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars ALL WOMEN MUST SEE THIS MOVIE* 20 stars*or more*!
This is a movie for everyone... no matter what you beleive in!*
It shows "everyone's side"... for the good & - or bad. (You can decide which is what for you alone. Read more
Published on May 7 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars An awful portrayal
I will never in this lifetime understand why any mother would believe that killing her own child would be in anyone's best interests (including her own). Read more
Published on May 4 2003 by Liz
3.0 out of 5 stars biased and leaning to the left
Just for once would I like to see a movie that didn't resort to high drama to show the viewer their political idealogies. Read more
Published on Nov. 2 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars We must never go back...
I haven't found myself crying because of a movie in years, but If These Walls Could Talk did the trick. I was born after Roe v. Read more
Published on Sept. 2 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Good movie, but biased...
I'll start off saying that even as an abortion supporter, I found the movie biased. The one segment of three, which was set in the 70s and acted brilliantly by Sissy Spacek, where... Read more
Published on June 26 2002 by Jen
1.0 out of 5 stars Ouch
I had an abortion at 13 and now (at 23) I counsel women who suffer from Post Abortion Trauma. This movie tries to make abortion seem like it's not a negative thing, however the... Read more
Published on June 25 2002
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