Unplanned, the new movie from faith-based production company Pure Flix, surprised many by opening in fifth place at the box office this past weekend and earning over $6 million dollars. The film tells the story of Abby Johnson, who worked for Planned Parenthood for eight years until seeing an abortion ultimately led her to become a pro-life advocate.
“It’s a little surreal, if I’m honest, to watch someone play out the worst version of yourself in a film,” Johnson told CBN News. “But it’s also just a good reminder that God can literally use anything from our past and use it for his glory and use it for his kingdom.”
Unplanned raked in twice the amount of money box office trackers expected it to gross in its opening weekend. It played in 1,059 theaters throughout the U.S. and did best in the southern and midwestern parts of the country. At this time, Unplanned has earned the second highest opening of any Pure Flix film, with God Is Not Dead 2 holding the top position. Although critics have given the film a splat on Rotten Tomatoes, it currently has a 94 percent audience approval rating.
Challenges Along the Way
One reason why some have not expected the film to be successful is the marketing difficulties it has faced. The MPAA gave the film an R-rating, which is the first R-rating Pure Flix has ever received and which led to speculation that the company’s conservative audience would be reluctant to see the movie. Another roadblock the company faced was the fact that every major television network except for Fox News refused to air a commercial promoting the film. The networks that commented on their reasoning said their decisions were due to its “sensitive nature.”
Even Christian radio network K-Love would not promote Unplanned, stating on its Facebook page, “We focus on positive and encouraging content that is safe for the whole family. We avoid promoting R-rated movies… We have been and continue to be pro-life and believe in the sanctity of life.” Johnson criticized the decision, saying that K-Love is being inconsistent because in the past it promoted The Passion of the Christ, an R-rated film. Something else of note that occurred over the weekend is that Twitter suspended the movie’s account. While some have accused Twitter of doing so out of bias, it is not clear whether that is the case or whether there was another reason, such as an algorithm glitch.
The Importance of Truth and Compassion
In a statement to ABC News, Planned Parenthood said that Unplanned portrays “falsehoods…distortions and incorrect depictions about healthcare.” Johnson counters that the movie is portraying the truth of what happens at Planned Parenthood. The point of the film is not to “demonize” the clinics or the people who work in them, but to show the reality of what abortion is.
She also acknowledges that the pro-life movement itself isn’t perfect: “There is right and wrong on both sides of this debate and that’s really a story that I wanted to tell.” Part of telling that story is also being willing to acknowledge her own flaws. Johnson says, “I’m being honest because if we aren’t honest about who we are and the flaws that we have, then there is really no credibility to the story that we are sharing… In the end, dialogue, conversation, compassion—that’s truly what wins people over.”
This review of the film from a pro-choice writer for the Central Florida Post illustrates the importance of empathy and constructive dialogue. Bridgette Bayley describes the movie as “a bloody, emotional spiritual roller coaster” and says she only went to see it because of her friend, who asked Bayley to be willing to challenge herself. Bayley says she agreed to go in light of the fact that she would want someone to do the same for her. She appreciated that the movie was empathetic in its portrayal of Planned Parenthood workers, and while she has not changed her pro-choice position after seeing Unplanned, Bayley does say the movie left her “completely distraught, questioning everything I had ever believed about what abortion really was.”
Johnson told ABC that this type of awareness is essentially what she hopes the film will accomplish: “If you’re going to support something, know what it is that you support… I think it’s time though for even people who are pro-choice to have honest conversations. Is there a problem inside of the abortion clinics that they claim to support? That’s a real conversation that needs to be taking place within the pro-choice community.”