It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"October Baby" tells the story of a 19-year-old college student named Hannah, who is introduced by collapsing onstage in the first act of a college play. In a fraught scene with her doctor and her parents, she learns that her collapse was likely associated with childhood epilepsy, and that it might be related to her birth. "We aren't your birth parents," says her father (John Schneider), adding somewhat hurriedly that they always meant to tell her, but…
Hannah (Rachel Hendrix) discovers that she was born as the result of a failed late-term abortion. Her father doesn't want her to know this, but her mother (Jennifer Price) silently hands over her birth certificate. After a long lakeside discussion with lifelong friend Jason (Jason Burkey), she decides to join Jason and a group of friends on a trip to Mardi Gras; they can stop off on the way in Baton Rouge to meet Hannah's birth mother, which seems a rather casual way to treat that emotional event.
The trip is unhelpful to the plot, which surrounds a potentially strong story with distracting changes in mood and style. Low-rent comedy relief centers around Jason's cousin B-Mac (Chris Sligh), the bearded and roly-poly owner of an old Volkswagen van he treasures as a "classic." There are too many scenes along the way, as the old van (the vehicle of choice in countless 1960s road movies) rolls down highways while the soundtrack bursts with middle-of-the-road pop-rock.
An undetermined number of friends share the van with them, including a young black woman who is placed prominently in several shots but is never mentioned, identified or spoken to. Her purpose is to show that they have a black friend. Then there's an ungainly scene in a hotel where Hannah and Jason are so determined not to share the same bed that they end up camping out in the lobby. This comes after the night clerk offers them the deluxe luxury suite, but they request a regular room. Turning down the free suite doesn't sound typical of college students — hey, maybe it had two bedrooms?