If propaganda films are long on emotional appeal and short on truth and balance, then Cher’s If These Walls Could Talk is right on the money.

Produced by and starring Demi Moore, the film had a lot of people talking at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

It will be an important film because of the subject material and the way it has been treated. Some have described it as Hollywood’s treatment of the abortion issue. Of course, anything Hollywood touches must be taken with a few grains of salt.

Yes, Cher’s film is covered in blood – one dead doctor and one hemorrhaging female. It is maudlin. It is a wonderful indictment of the Irish Catholic family. It is unfair, but that’s Hollywood.

The film is shot somewhere in North American and opens with clips of Richard Nixon, activists marching and polite pro-life signs. There are three vignettes or short stories, one set in 1952, the second in 1974 and the third some time in the 1990s.

Vignette 1: Grieving Demi Moore is pregnant out of wedlock and seeks desperately for an abortion and indeed for an abortionist. The film takes careful aim at the Donnelly family, Irish Catholic. They will support her during the bereavement period after their son’s death, but will have none of her once she’s pregnant. She dies after an abortion on the kitchen table.

The abortionist is a money-grubbing sleazy dirty doctor. One is tempted to compare him to some 1990s style abortionists, but let’s hold back.

Vignette 2: We are served up loyal well adjusted mother of teenager and younger children. She’s going back to school and she pregnant with her fifth child. In some ways we are supposed to think that she’s the victim. Her loving, supportive husband will have to give up plans of an early retirement and she will bite her lip and soldier on, have carefully weighed the possibility of abortion.

The mother, played by Cissy Spacek, hears from her best friend that the abortion experienced by the latter has caused her no aguish, guilt nor unhappiness. Post-abortion syndrome? Never heard of it.

Enough Stereotypes

Vignette 3: In this piece we find enough stereotypes and caricatures to please most. Cute coed en route to the local abortion place runs into the Ave Maria chorus. A younge mother, looking all of 19, blithely thrusts a baby in her face and assures her that she doesn’t want to kill her unborn child. The 19-year-old further assures her that she has two or three more kids at home. There are more than enough stereotypes to go around in this piece.

The really dirty stuff comes at the end of the film. Why? How about guilt by association.

We get a view of the modern sterile abortuary, run by Cher. Cute coed is carefully counselled by the staff. Just when you think you’ve seen the cleanest, safest, tidiest abortion in town (no fuss, no fetus), well Cher is hit by a rain of bullets.

The nearly bloodless abortion is contrasted by murder. And since the film keeps reminding us of the Christian Right and the other pro-lifers in the parking lot, there’s not much doubt what the average movie goer is supposed to conclude.

As a propaganda flick, If These Walls Could Talk succeeds. But if you’re interested in some semblance of truth on the abortion issue, the film is about as realistic as Cher’s plastic surgery.

The film was scheduled to air in Canada on the Movie Network October 13. It’s not expected to be released in regular theaters, although it may appear on Home Box Office (HBO) in the U.S. or in video rental outlets.

Pro-lifers might consider viewing the film if only to get a glimpse of how abortion and the pro-life community are portrayed by Hollywood’s opinion makers.