Give Me An A


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Give Me An A
"Give Me An A is a vital piece of filmmaking."

On the 24th of June, 2022, the Supreme Court of the US overturned the verdict in landmark 1973 case Roe vs. Wade, effectively ending access to safe abortion for millions of Americans. It was a decision greeted with shock and devastation, but also with rage, and it served as an immediate call to action. Whilst lawmakers in several states quickly got to work to outlaw terminations even in cases of rape, incest or danger to life, 16 female filmmakers got together to begin their fightback by creating an anthology film exploring the issues involved through horror and sharp-edged satire. They completed it in just three months, but to watch it, one would never guess that.

Having now finished its festival run and emerged onto VoD, this film serves as commentary, as an opportunity to let out strong emotions in the knowledge that they’re shared, and as an invitation to rebellion. It is not, as some people might have expected, a film given to depression or despair. Nothing about it positions women as natural victims. Rather it is furious, sharp witted and often viciously funny. There is a tremendous energy about it which makes it very clear that the voices it represents are not about to be silenced, even if, in one of its first shorts, we see that happening literally.

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There are 16 shorts in all, along with a framing story which is more musical number than conventional narrative, blending scarlet letters with the iconography of cheerleading and the black swan. A carefully coordinated approach to production, with a single colourist ensuring that all of them have the same grade, makes them flow together without the distraction of jarring visual styles. The tone varies, of course, but they’re arranged so that the anthology can take advantage of this, moving from the overtly angry to the playful, from the droll to the kitsch and back again. Although there is horror, there is less gore than you might expect – that’s left for real life. Only a couple of moments are likely to make squeamish viewers look away, and the comedy is well paced so that you won’t feel overwhelmed by the psychological horror of the thing.

Despite being female-focused, this is also a film which avoids the simple approach of directing anger at men. There is a little of that, where it is specifically earned, but the overall picture is much more nuanced, with some women turning out to be villains and men emerging as allies in unexpected places. In avoiding the obvious routes, the film also avoids anything looking at the horror of backstreet abortions gone wrong, and rape is referenced only once – there are no depictions of sexual violence. Just one short deals directly with forced pregnancy, and it does so in a surreal, heavily metaphorical way. There is nothing dealing with child pregnancy. This makes the film easier to watch for people who have experienced related trauma, whilst also establishing that the filmmakers can make their case without needing to resort to edge cases.

17 stories are, naturally, not enough to address everything that is important about this issue, but the film does a good job of laying the groundwork for ongoing conversations. Whilst some sections are stronger than others, none of them are really weak, and they stand up well alongside most of the other genre shorts released around the same time. Highlights include a nicely composed tale about the consequences of getting lawyers involved in casual sex, a delicately performed piece about a secret abortion clinic, and a traffic stop story which veers between acute distress and laugh out loud comedy. Quite a few of the films feature impressive acting work, and the variety and complexity of the characters serves as a reminder of just how widespread the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision is.

An invigorating work which will boost the energy of those fighting for change whilst helping others to understand, on an emotional as well as a rational level, why it matters, Give Me An A is a vital piece of filmmaking. It is also a demonstration of cinema’s ability to step up and serve as a communicative medium with impressive speed when it is urgently needed. Finally, it highlights the work of some emerging female directors whom you won’t want to lose track of – diverse and differently creative individuals raising their voices together.

Reviewed on: 30 Jun 2023
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16 women filmmakers make their voices heard with this anthology of genre-themed short films, all made in direct response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

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