A review of “Unexpected,” which juxtaposes the experiences of a teacher (Cobie Smulders) and a student (Gail Bean) who are both surprised to find themselves facing parenthood. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
Samantha (Cobie Smulders), a 30-year-old science teacher at an inner-city Chicago high school, is unexpectedly but happily pregnant. She shares the news with a student, whose answer is not an immediate congratulations but a question: “What are you going to do?” “I’m going to keep it,” Samantha replies, a bit nonplussed; the question hasn’t really occurred to her.
It’s a telling, thoughtful little scene, in a movie full of them. “Unexpected,” from writer/director Kris Swanberg (playwright Megan Mercier co-wrote the screenplay), is the story of two very different pregnancies: those of Samantha, with her supportive live-in partner John (Anders Holm), and her student Jasmine (Gail Bean), with her shy boyfriend Travis (Aaron Nelson).
Throughout the film, we’re struck by the differences in these two women’s experiences: Samantha’s friends and family assume that she’ll stay home with her child (“This could be a nice break for you,” she’s told); Jasmine, whose lower-income family depends on public assistance, is expected to work after her baby is born. Samantha and John quickly marry; Travis isn’t ready to step up. Samantha, who loves her work, worries about how a child might impact her career; Jasmine, a bright girl with dreams of college, knows immediately that a baby means putting her education on hold, at least for now. At 30, Samantha feels too young to have a child; Jasmine, incredulous, notes that “my sister’s 23, and she’s got two.”
Movie Review ★★★
‘Unexpected,’ with Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm, Gail Bean, Elizabeth McGovern, Aaron Nelson. Directed by Kris Swanberg, from a screenplay by Megan Mercier and Swanberg. 85 minutes. Rated R for language. Sundance (21+).
At times, “Unexpected” feels a little script-y, with the two women’s stories set almost too perfectly in opposition. But Smulders and Bean, with gentle and honest performances, sell it beautifully, and the tone is both warmhearted and realistic. Samantha, refreshingly, can’t magically fix Jasmine’s life, but things wrap up with a pleasant sense that these likable people will all be OK … and that’s unexpected enough.
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