By Ben Kayser, Managing Editor
UNPLANNED is the powerful true story of Abby Johnson, a young woman who gets drawn into working for Planned Parenthood until one day she sees something that changes her mind and inspires her to become a pro-life advocate. The movie, which Movieguide® has screened and dubs an “extremely well-made movie” and “powerful,” received an R-rating from the MPAA for “some disturbing/bloody images.” However, is UNPLANNED grisly and disturbing enough to earn an R-rating instead of a PG-13 rating, something that could majorly hurt the success of the faith-based movie?
Movieguide® gave UNPLANNED a -1 acceptability rating, which means discretion is advised for older children. While the material is heavy, the violence and bloody images are low by Hollywood’s standards. Other 2019 movies like HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U, MISS BALA and GLASS features many killings, murders, and deaths, and each of these received a PG-13 movie, allowing older teenagers to attend without adult supervision.
Writers/Directors Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman (GOD’S NOT DEAD) filmed UNPLANNED in secret in Oklahoma in order to avoid unnecessary protest from Planned Parenthood activists. In response to the R-rating, the filmmakers told Movieguide®, “UNPLANNED is an ‘R’ rated film which has no MPAA cautions for profanity, nudity, sex or violence… except for violence directly associated with the abortion process. Ironically, the MPAA seems to be indirectly endorsing the pro-life position: namely that abortion is an act of violence.” They continued, “even more ironically, as a result of the MPAA’s decision to give us a ‘Restricted’ rating, many teenage women in this country who can legally obtain an actual abortion without parental permission will be prohibited from going to see our film containing simulated images of abortion, without obtaining parental permission.”
Despite the MPAA’s decision, the writer/director duo isn’t letting it squash their spirits. “But, maybe it’s all for the best: As the wife of our lead film attorney put it: ‘This is a movie that every mother of a teenage girl needs to take her daughter by the hand and go see with her.’ So as far as we’re concerned, ‘R’ means ‘Recommended.’”
Abby Johnson is played by actress Ashley Bratcher, who shared that the message became especially important to her when her mother told Bratcher that she was minutes away from being aborted herself. While abortion has become a heated political issue again, multiple Pro-Life movies have come to fruition recently. Last fall GOSNELL (which did receive a PG-13 rating), starring Dean Cain released in theaters about the convicted abortionist doctor Kermit Gosnell, and later this year ROE V. WADE will be released.
Konzelman and Solomon told Movieguide® that they do not plan on contesting the R-rating with MPAA. UNPLANNED releases in theaters March 29, 2019.