Fighting antiabortionists by day and attempting to be a mother by night, Finn Jefferies (Brooke Johnson), a highly successful gynecologist at an abortion clinic and mother to 11-year-old Zelly Bean (Maya Ritter), has her challenges cut out for her. Finn’s Girl is longtime documentary collaborators Laurie Colbert and Dominique Cardona’s first feature and they don’t take it lightly. Diving into such divisive issues as abortion, lesbian motherhood, new fertility technology, teenage angst, widowhood and new romance, Finn’s Girl does it all.
Finn is struggling to come to terms with the death of her long-term partner Nancy (Gail Maurice) and her new role as primary mother to the feisty preteen Zelly — a role that doesn’t come naturally to her. The film focuses on Finn and Zelly as they struggle to make a new family while exploring the social and political issues of abortion rights and lesbian motherhood.
Cardona and Colbert, who made the docs My Feminism and Thank God I’m a Lesbian and the narrative short Below the Belt, have gone right to the heart of a lesbian family with all it’s complexities as Finn tries unsuccessfully to balance grief, work and family. “During the interviews for our documentary My Feminism the most astounding confessions that we encountered throughout were that most of the mothers we interviewed wished they’d not had children,” says Colbert. “This was in the 1990s and women were still not ready to talk publicly about their conflicting feelings about motherhood.
“While we both would have liked to have made a documentary about this no one would talk to us on camera for fear of hurting their children.”
So Colbert and Cardona made a feature. “It was thrilling to make a longer piece and get the chance to work with actors for a few weeks, to tell a story that can explore issues without some of the confines of the documentary genre,” says Colbert.
“For our first attempt at a feature drama we knew that we wanted to make a film about a lesbian mother in her forties, who has a deep love for her child, despite prioritizing her career over parenting.” Colbert says. Finn becomes the target of violent antiabortionists; enter a new romantic twist in Diana (Yanna McIntosh), the cop assigned to protect Finn and her troubled daughter.
The backdrop to this intimate family drama is the abortion clinic where Finn works. “We thought an abortionist would make an excellent career-driven and courageous protagonist with more on her mind than her kid’s soccer practice,” says Colbert. Henry Morgentaler generously gave full access to his clinic in Toronto where real protestors were a constant presence.
For the most part Finn’s Girl successfully pulls off a complicated balancing act of multiple storylines — the strongest story being the relationship between Finn and Zelly as they navigate toward a way of living with each other. Sometimes the abortion backdrop and the new romance feel a bit forced but strong acting and a good core story make up for some of these weaker elements.
Colbert and Cardona have brought an original perspective and engaging characters to a solid indie feature. Obviously a labour of love, Finn’s Girl is a unique picture in the world of lesbian drama.