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How deeply into the abortion debate can one film take you in a mere 78 minutes? In the hands of co-writers and directors Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert, the answer is: Just far enough to craft a decent kidnap thriller, though not enough to really present a nuanced examination of the issue.
Catch and Release , adapted from a 1993 play that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize that year, opens with a comatose young woman (Laurence Leboeuf) being hauled into a remote cabin on a tiny island in what looks to be Northern Ontario. (The film was shot in the province’s Temagami region.)
When she wakes up it is to a lone captor played by Nancy Palk, who explains that she’s been brought there to bring her pregnancy to term, and not to have the abortion that was her original plan. There’s no way off the island, and no communication with the mainland. Supplies are brought in by co-conspirator Robert (Aidan Devine, radiating a barely contained menace).
I started to wonder whether the twist would be that she wasn’t pregnant at all, but that isn’t it
Catch and Release was released as Kelly and Du when it screened at a few festivals in 2018. It’s a better title, telling us the names of the two women, recalling the source material, and not accidentally confusing itself with 2006’s Catch and Release , a rom-com starring Jennifer Garner.
The issue is framed rather heavy-handedly – while extreme anti-abortionists have committed crimes in the name of their beliefs, few go so far as to spend the better part of nine months making sure an unwanted pregnancy comes to term. And Du starts to warm to Keely’s predicament only when she learns that the father was an abusive ex-husband and rapist; so not a lot of nuance there either.
It’s still a compelling story, as Keely refuses to succumb to Stockholm Syndrome, and constantly seeks a method to escape or at least turn Du against Robert. But the film does no favours by hiring a lean actress and doing nothing to make her look like she’s expecting, in spite of what is clearly at least weeks in captivity.
I started to wonder whether the twist would be that she wasn’t pregnant at all, but that isn’t it. Nor is the camera’s long, lingering focus on a coat hanger any kind of foreshadowing. And that growling noise outside the cabin one night? Just a bear eating some red herring. There is a revelation in the last act, but it’s a mild one.
The resulting product is serious, well shot and thoughtful to a point, but it cries out for more shaded characters and motivations. As it stands, it won’t change the minds of any abortion foes, who won’t recognize themselves in the overtly villainous kidnappers. Like the fishing practice, Catch and Release lets viewers go on their way untroubled and unchanged.
Catch and Release is available July 14 on demand.
2.5 stars out of 5
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020