A Girl Like Her Directed by Ann Fessler Thurs., June 22 at 5:30 p.m. at Round House Theatre. Also on Sat., June 23, at 1 p.m. at AFI Silver 3.

In the era of Snooki and 16 and Pregnant, it’s difficult to imagine a time when expecting young women were secretly shuttled away to remote group houses where they could grow huge, give birth, and immediately have their babies taken away from them, all without—gasp!—the neighbors finding out. In A Girl Like Her, director Ann Fessler has dozens of such women tell fragments of their stories anonymously, identified only at the very end by photos from their youth. Their experiences are similar: They took fooling around a bit too far, got knocked up, infuriated their parents, and felt indescribable sorrow at being forced to surrender their children, sometimes without ever seeing them. But collectively, these play-by-plays have a power—becoming pregnant before marriage or even high-school graduation wasn’t exactly a rare occurrence, and the way with which it was dealt in the 1950s and ’60s had lifelong emotional consequences. The film is quietly devastating, using vintage footage to depict the stories and frame them with the beliefs of the time, including an “educational” video that instructs, “All things considered, it’s the girl who sets the level of conduct on a date.” The most heartbreaking sentiments, though, come from the parents of the unwed mothers. As one woman says, the idea forced upon her was that “the worst possible thing that could happen would be if the child ended up with me.”

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