Reviewed by: Chris

Juno (named after the jealous Roman goddess of heaven and earth) is 16 and pregnant. She had a one-off thing with Paulie Bleeker, a similarly geeky type in golden running shorts. After being frightened off the abortion clinic by a tactless receptionist and placard-waving fellow-student, Juno opts for adoption. “Can’t we just kick it old school?,” she says, interviewing rather posh prospective parents. “I could just put the baby in a basket and send it your way. You know, like Moses in the reeds.”

What sets the film apart is the intense performance by its lead star and a sparklingly offbeat and witty script. Juno is one of those teenagers who is thinking faster than everyone around her and is extremely articulate. Like her heating-and-ventilation father, we hesitate before thinking we could know better.

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In mythology, Juno’s deepest desire was for a happy union and proactive partnership. Our heroine, having sought out the perfect couple, is distraught when, surprise, surprise, they’re not perfect. Her father might be on his second marriage, but he is devoted to her in a solid and sincere, role-model sort of way. Their humble, apparently dysfunctional family is a more solid unit than the high-flying childless materialists who seem to lack for nothing (except a baby).

Our film, with ‘indie’ written all over its sleeve, has quirks like hand-scrawled chapters announcing the seasons (the Roman Juno was mistress of them). Juno and her best-friend/inseminator play folksy guitar and listen to suitably recondite pop music. She affects a Sherlock Holmes pipe. We have frequent reminders of its low-budget status - as if we should congratulate it on its miraculous existence. But skillful delivery rescues it from pretentiousness every time. And the heady momentum is kept up to the end.

If acting and script save it from being high school cheese, they also save it from being a pro-life drum-banger. While hitting all the right notes to show that intelligent kids value abstinence and babies over promiscuity and termination, it is simply telling a story and telling it well. There are many excellent films demonstrating the need to allow choice the other way, and both types should rise or fall on their merits as films rather than for the arguments they extol.

The visual palette of Juno is seductive, rich tones reflecting each season. Cinematography also includes beautiful touches: as Juno sits at the edge of the road, crying for a moment in her car, a slow freight train passes her by. She must do something with her life (and the life inside her), before it, too, passes her by. The story allows all her decisions, of course, to turn out spot on. We are constantly entranced to see what Juno will do or say next. As a standout film, it has the surprise and freshness of a Little Miss Sunshine. The soundtrack is full of whimsical pseudo-intellectual tracks by little-known bands, oozing the appeal of, say, Garden State. One might cavil that such a bright, educated and quick-witted young woman is hardly likely to have bypassed condom use in her underage adventure. Or that the ending is unbelievably pat. But this is still probably the cleverest, funniest, and most lovable bittersweet ode to teenage pregnancy you will ever witness.

Reviewed on: 03 Feb 2008
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A teenager finds her own way of dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.
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Read more Juno reviews:

Val Kermode ****
Paul Griffiths ****
Stephen Carty ****

Director: Jason Reitman

Writer: Diablo Cody

Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby, Eileen Pedde, Rainn Wilson, Daniel Clark, Darla Vandenbossche

Year: 2007

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, Canada, Hungary

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If you like this, try:

Little Miss Sunshine