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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » If These Walls Could Talk
If These Walls Could Talk
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Review by Yvonne Tresnan | posted May 14, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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What's It All About?
"A powerful, intimate Portrait of how times and freedoms have changed. It will shock you. It will surprise you. An no matter where you stand on the issue, it will force you to think again." So says the description on the back of the packaging. And for the most part "If These Walls Could Talk" stands up to the challenge.
"Walls was originally broadcast on HBO in 1996 and tackles the question of abortion head-on. It falls short in the "no matter where you stand" claim as overall the effort is weighted on the pro-choice side of the debate. The film explores the issue through three women, living in the same house, facing the challenge of unexpected pregnancy, over a span of 40 years.

The first story is set in 1952 and features Demi Moore as Claire Donnelly, a recently widowed nurse who becomes pregnant by her deceased husband's brother. Faced with strict 1950's morals, the shame of her spouse's family and public humiliation, Claire decides to discreetly explore an abortion. Of course an abortion, which was illegal in 1952, isn't exactly the easiest or safest thing for Claire to do. But the feature sufficiently makes the viewer aware of just how desperate Claire is. This is the most unsettling of the three episodes and it's intense ending distracts us slightly as we move to…

1974, where Sissy Spacek as Barbara Barrows, already a mother of four, finds that she is pregnant. Barbara has returned to college, finally able to devote some time for herself as her children have grown. Now facing a new baby with her own conservative upbringing, an equally conservative husband who works nights, a liberated teenaged daughter who wants to go away to college an the pressure of maintaining household of six, Barbara must decide what to do. Spacek's acting ability helps this segment along, but it can't help but be the weakest of the three.

Finally, in 1996 the "walls" find Anne Heche as Christine, a young college student who has become pregnant from a married professor. Jada Pinket as Christine's roommate is totally against abortion and threatens to abandon Christine if she goes through with the procedure only to come back later to drive Christine to the clinic. At the clinic Christine faces a small group of religious protestors who attempt to win her over to their side. Christine backs out at first only to return the next day when the small group of protestors has been replaced by an angry mob. The protestors are portrayed a bit over the top throughout the short and while one could argue that an abortion protestor might say "You'll still be a mother, the mother of a dead baby" I find dialogue like "I'm here to represent the young women of this country! God forgive us for taking roles that aren't ours to take. May he break the curse of independence in women's hearts!" a tad more unlikely. This segment tries to be powerful but the combination of the extreme portrayals of both the religious mob outside and the predictable nature of the story cause it to fall short. Interestingly Anne Hache isn't billed as the star here. That honor goes to Cher who portrays the physician performing the abortions and directs the short.

How Does It Look?
The video quality isn't bad, though it's nothing to write home about. I noticed no digital artifacts and the print is usually clean and strong. Keep in mind though that this was intended for television broadcast so the DVD at least looks better that that.

How Does It Sound?
A Dolby 2.0 Surround soundtrack is weak at times and I found myself having to turn up or put on the subtitles to catch some of the dialogue.

Extras, Extras, Extras!
All you get are bios for Moore, Spacek, Cher and director Nancy Savoca. I find it hard to believe that HBO didn't tape a few interviews with the cast for broadcast on the cable network around the date of the original airing and they would have made a nice addition to the package.

Wrap-Up:
"Walls" was at times powerful and unsettling but failed to make me ask any new questions regarding abortion. It is much more likely to bring viewers that sit on the fence over to the pro-choice side than to make those who sit firmly on either side of the debate think about switching over. Also in question is the value of repeat viewings. So "If These Walls Could Talk" they'd say "RENT ME".

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