‘The Ride Home’ is one woman’s abortion journey
If The Ride Home is a tough watch, that’s because it’s supposed to be. It hinges on abortion, after all: one of society’s taboo topics which is rarely discussed, let alone allowed to drive story on screen.
But not talking about something doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Ignoring it doesn’t breed empathy, or understanding, or bring us any closer to normalizing discussions around reproductive health. Shying away from it because it's too political doesn't mean it isn't one day going to affect you or someone you love.
Thus the genius and conceit of The Ride Home, which premieres on March 10 at the 2018 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival: it manages to tell an abortion story with no agenda other than telling that single story. And that in itself is groundbreaking.
“I didn’t want to make a political film,” says director and co-writer Laura Adkin (The Goodnight Kiss). “I just wanted to make one girl’s journey, one thing that happened to one person rather than make a giant statement. It’s not pro, or against. It’s about what she does.”
The Ride Home is, in some ways, a simple tale befitting the short film form:
A young woman and her boyfriend enter a reproductive health clinic. She’s there for an abortion. She sits in the lobby with her agitated boyfriend and a couple who is waiting for a fertility treatment. She’s led from the lobby into a procedure room. She has an abortion. She returns to the waiting room to learn that her boyfriend has left. She needs a ride home. She receives one from the waiting room couple.
But there’s nothing simple about the loneliness that can consume you when you’re in a bad relationship, or the profound sorrow that can sometimes accompany the choice to terminate a pregnancy. And The Ride Home brings its audiences into the big emotions of an abortion journey by leaning into these nuances.
Adkin came to the project by way of co-writer and lead actress Taylor Hastings, upon whose real-life experience The Ride Home is based. “It’s not exactly her story, but it is her story,” says the Vancouver-based director. “She, in her early 20s, had an abortion, and was dating a guy that was not supportive, and I know she wanted to make this film as her way of dealing with it, and I thought that was pretty powerful.”
Adkin recognized the inherent power in making a film about a taboo topic during this particular moment in history. “I make films when I have something to say, and I just felt like now is the time for women to start talking about things [like abortion], because the more we talk about them, the less taboo it will be,” says Adkin.
“Even things that you have no control over, like miscarriages and infertility: these are things that there’s so much shame around because as women we’re not only supposed to be able to make babies, but we’re supposed to want to, and I wanted to make a film that’s going to make people want to have a conversation.”
Hastings leads a strong cast that includes Tarun Keram, Lisa Durupt, Veena Sood, and Catherine Lough Haggquist. John Cassini and Caroline Cave play the hopeful parents who offer Hastings’ character the titular ride home.
“Their performances are amazing, and they did exactly what I wanted them to do,” says Adkin of Cassini and Cave. “There’s their internal struggle as well – ‘We want a baby so badly, and she just got rid of one’ – but this was their opportunity to parent.”
Cast and crew filmed over a couple of days in June 2017 on a micro-budget. Adkin says the limited budget actually enhanced the film. “I wanted it to feel kind of rough and awkward and uncomfortable, because that’s what [an abortion] is,” she says.
The Ride Home has its world premiere during a time of career growth for Adkin. She’s currently reading scripts in search of her feature film directorial debut; on Friday, Women in the Director's Chair announced that Adkin is one of four filmmakers who will participate in the organization's career advancement module (the module runs concurrently with the Women in Film Festival).
It’s also a profound time to be a filmmaker and a woman, says Adkin.
“I feel powerful right now, and I think there’s a significant shift, and I think we can talk about what we want to talk about now, and I think there’s less shame and less hesitation,” says Adkin. “I think as women, time’s up. We’re done with being in the corner and not being taken seriously.”
Between March 6 and 11, the 2018 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival screens 56 women-driven narrative and documentary shorts and feature films from 12 countries. Schedule and tickets here. Hashtag #VIWIFF.
Watch for more coverage of the 2018 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival – including our top local picks – in the coming days.