Call Jane (2022) Movie Ending, Explained: There is a lot to admire in Phyllis Nagy’s new movie Call Jane, even though it is not exactly a great movie by any means. Seventeen years after making her debut with the TV movie Mrs. Harris, which earned her Emmy nomination for writing, Nagy is back at direction again; this time with a feature made for the big screen which technically makes this her feature debut in a way. She is, of course, well-known for writing the screenplay of Todd Haynes‘s searing LGBTQ drama Carol (2015), which earned her an Academy Award nomination in the adapted screenplay category.
Interestingly though, instead of writing her script for her new movie, Nagy has chosen to direct a screenplay written by Hayley Schore and Roshan Sethi. Starring Elizabeth Banks in the lead and loosely based on the real-life women’s activist group “The Jane Collective,” Call Jane is a drama about a Chicago housewife with problematic pregnancy coming across an underground safe abortion service provider group. It also stars Chris Messina, Kate Mara, Wunmi Mosaku, Cory Michael Smith, John Magaro, Grace Edwards, and the indomitable Sigourney Weaver in pivotal roles.
Call Jane (2022): Plot Summary and Synopsis
The year is 1968, and abortion is banned in the state of Illinois.
We meet Joy (Banks) at a high-end lawyer event that she is attending with her husband, Will (Messina). A group of people is protesting outside the event venue, implying the situation of unrest going on in the city of Chicago, but Will and Joy safely leave the place, which implies that they belong to that particularly “rich” section of society which is unaffected by whatever that goes on in the world.
Pregnant with her second child, Joy is a suburban housewife living a seemingly perfect life with a good-natured husband, a criminal lawyer, and their teenage daughter, Charlotte (Edwards). Joy’s neighbor and friend Lana (Mara) recently lost her husband and suffers from clinical depression.
But her excellent life turns upside down when she learns from her doctor that her pregnancy is life-threatening. Upon her doctor’s suggestion, Joy submits an application for emergency termination of her pregnancy, considering her condition to the hospital’s medical board. But the “all men” medical board rejects her appeal, (un)surprisingly. To make matters worse, her generally lovely husband has no clue about how to fix this situation, and he doesn’t seem to be that enthusiastic about going against the law (that says abortion is illegal) to save his wife’s life.
An anxious, frustrated Joy tries everything from visiting psychiatrists to prove she is “suicidal,” which will eventually help her to turn the medical board verdict to making attempts to fall down the stairs, which will do “the thing” for her.
Right after changing her mind about doing the abortion in an extremely unsafe and very shady-looking place, Joy comes across a poster with a phone number asking to “Call Jane” to get help with pregnancy-related “problems.”
With no other help around, Joy ultimately calls the number and a woman named Gwen (Mosaku) picks her up and takes her to a secret location where a doctor (Smith) deftly performs the procedure on her. Post that, Gwen takes her to meet the group of people which is led by this enigmatic woman Virginia (Weaver). Joy learns that the group calls themselves “Jane” and their purpose is to help women with safe abortions for which they take a significant amount of calculated risk which includes a mafia tie-up.
Joy lies to her husband and daughter about having an accidental miscarriage to cover up her real truth. Soon after, Virginia calls to check up on her and asks her to pick up a woman to deliver to the “address” for the same obvious reason as “a one-time-only favor”. But seeing the good this group is doing and thanks to a really persuasive Virginia, Joy eventually joins the group and finds a new purpose in her life. She tells her family about joining an art class to cope up with the post-miscarriage trauma to which they seem supportive enough. However, this sort of affects her life at home where her husband keeps complaining about not having “enough home-cooked meals” and her daughter becomes distant.
As time goes by and Joy gets deeply involved with the group, she starts to see the struggle they all have to do to achieve the “good” they are doing. One of the major issues is the doctor, who is a young guy named Dean, charges a significant amount of fees for the procedure so only the women who can pay the money can get the service. This really upsets Joy and she keeps looking for a viable solution. A random scene at this point of the movie shows Virginia negotiating with Dean by sexually enticing him. The result of that is Dean doing two free procedures every week but the group also has to find more patients for him who can obviously pay.
Joy eventually finds out that Dean doesn’t have a medical degree, which means he is not exactly a “real” doctor. She confronts him and asks to teach her the procedure, in exchange for not revealing his truth to Virginia. Joy turns out to be quite a natural as she picks up the procedure quite easily with Dean’s help. However, she fails to keep her promise of keeping Dean’s secret which she uses as a form of justification while making an attempt at convincing a justifiably skeptical Virginia to let her do the process which would eventually help the women who are unable to pay the money.
Virginia does give Joy her “one shot” at it. She does make that count successfully, but on the same day Charlotte finds out what her mother is really doing after following her to the address that she got from Joy’s day planner. Upon coming back home, Joy offers her daughter to tell everything but Charlotte refuses to know anything as she doesn’t want to know about “babies dying” and literally anything problematic about the world.
Call Jane (2022): Ending Explained
Despite her daughter’s disapproval, Joy continues to do the “good” she has been doing. One day while coming back from work, she sees a police car outside her home. The police detective (John Magaro) grills a dumbstruck Will and cool-as-ice Joy about the “Jane” group and “whatever it is” that they have been doing. Joy keeps firmly denying every allegation and any association with it. To her surprise, she finds out the detective is actually looking for help with “what she does” and the interrogation was actually him verifying the integrity of the group. Joy takes the money from him. But Will is sad and surprised, and possibly angry.
What does Joy do?
After Will finds out, he gets more scared than angry as Joy has “broken the law” by performing surgeries on people. Lana voices her disappointment at Joy for not including her in her life. Charlotte, who was already mad at her mother, vents out further. A disheartened Joy calls Virginia and informs her that she will no longer be able to do anything for the group, which puts the group in a severe crisis.
Does Joy get back to the group?
Joy drowns herself in a life of familiarity in order to cope again. But one day, Virginia visits her and gives her a tape. The tape happens to be a collection of messages from a lot of women who are looking for help. After hearing it, Charlotte realizes that she has been selfish and ignorant and depriving a lot of women of the help they deserve. Upon her daughter’s request, Joy goes back to the group. She promises to teach the “procedure” to all the women for as long as it takes.
Over the course of the next five years, the “Jane” group helps millions of pregnant women. Joy eventually leaves the group and raises a lot of money for them, by taking the advantage of her privilege of belonging to a wealthy section of society. Following the iconic Roe versus Wade in 1973, a lot of restrictions on abortion are lifted in the state of Illinois and the group lost its relevance, of course, that makes Virginia happier than ever. She and a bunch of other women get arrested but thanks to Will who has come around eventually, they all get released pretty easily.
In the final scene, the women of the group burn all the “help call” cards they have received over the course of all these years; as a fittingly symbolic gesture.
Call Jane (2022): Movie Review
Despite being set in 1968, the relevance of a movie like “Call Jane” is still as strong as ever; especially when women in a lot of the United States and several other parts of the world still can’t get abortions as it is illegal as per the Government. The amount of barbarity lies in refusing human beings the fundamental right to their own body even in 2022 makes this film particularly important, especially if you consider the fact that a lot of anti-abortion content is still churned out by the entertainment industry inside wrappers of wholesomeness (the 2021 Bollywood movie Mimi, for eg).
However, preaching a really good message and making a stance for the right cause doesn’t necessarily make a good movie. The problem with “Call Jane” is its uneven script which is filled with a lot of unnecessary tonal shifts, inexplicable actions of characters, and conflicts that don’t really make much sense and go anywhere. There is a scene where Virginia and Gwen have a full-blown debate over racism but it comes at a point in the movie where it seems completely unnecessary. The character of Lana is terribly written and the sexual tension between Will and her is also a very tired and redundant trope that a movie like this did not need. It is sad and ironic that the director herself is a fantastic writer, after all.
Despite the problem with writing and editing, Call Jane is very watchable and even enjoyable thanks to a fantastic lead performance by Elizabeth Banks and a great supporting turn from Weaver who is certainly the best thing about the movie. What further elevates the viewing experience is the grain-induced cinematography similar to Carol (2015) and a very impressive soundtrack.