NEW YORK (CNS) — An overheated tone and characters’ questionable tactics in the struggle against abortion undercut the obviously good intentions behind the pro-life drama “Voiceless” (ArtAffects).

While it’s clearly meant to serve as a cinematic rallying cry for the protection of the innocent, the film instead runs the risk of reinforcing the stereotype of irate, crusading picketers collaring women in vulnerable situations.

Writer-director Pat Necerato’s protagonist is Jesse Dean (Rusty Joiner), a former Special Forces soldier, “self-taught in theology,” who runs an inner-city Philadelphia church’s outreach center where he teaches boxing. A new arrival in what the movie portrays as a dysfunctional City of Brotherly Love, Jesse is understandably dismayed to find an abortion mill operating across the street.

Previously uninvolved in the political controversy, but with a personal stake in the issue shared by his wife, Julia (Jocelyn Cruz), Jesse works to get his fellow parishioners mobilized to shutter the place.

Pastor Gil (James Russo) is opposed to this type of activism. But Jesse is spurred on by his Scottish-born neighbor, Elsie (Susan Moses). Elsie’s husband helped found the church but she has ceased to worship there because of the proximity of evil across the way.

Angry exchanges ensue. After he learns that a woman who had an abortion at the facility has committed suicide, for instance, Jesse rushes into the building, which has unrealistically ineffective security, heatedly confronting the receptionist at the front desk.

Matters escalate with an incident in which an abortion advocate (John G. Pavelec) turns up with a pistol, threatens everyone, and is killed by the police. Despite the heightened stakes, Jesse perseveres in his efforts, assuring Julia, “This is what God would want.”

Viewers committed to the sanctity of human life will sympathize with Jesse’s frustration and outrage. Yet, just as the movie centering on him seems unlikely to change the minds of the misguided about this sorrowful topic, so too his approach to the moral horror of legal killing, while admirable for its fervor and persistence, lacks reflection and prayerfulness.

The film contains a scene of gun violence with slight gore and mature themes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.


Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.