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Unexpected is precisely the kind of film one well-acquainted with the
mumblecore subgenre in film would expect Kris Swanberg, the wife of
director/writer/producer/actor/do-it-all-man Joe Swanberg would make,
and that's by no means a bad thing. Her husband has made a career
making no-budget films revolving around millennials grappling with
happiness, personal enrichment, existential dread, technology, sexual
angst, sexual tension, and relationships, and here, in her third
feature, following two decidedly smaller efforts, Unexpected tackles a
story of two people going through the same tribulation/blessing and
finding themselves seeing different experiences.
We focus on Samantha Abbott (Cobie Smulders), a young teacher at an
underfunded public school in Chicago that will see its doors close
following this school year. Samantha, being one of the only white
teachers in the largely urban school, does something few of her peers
seem to do, which is encourage her students to apply for college, even
going as far as to sit with them individually while they apply and work
out possible financial aid opportunities. One day, however, Samantha
discovers she is pregnant with her boyfriend John (Anders Holm).
Samantha doesn't know how this will effect her future, especially when
she has John declaring she can take a year or two off of work to raise
the kid while he'll float the family with his income.
However, this idea doesn't sit well with Samantha largely because she
doesn't want to be a mother and have everything else come second. Yet,
despite this, Samantha impulsively marries John, holding a brief
service with no family, much to the dismay of her mother (Elizabeth
McGovern), who feels she's going about this pregnancy in a backhanded
way. Even though Samantha and John seem to be at opposing ends
throughout this whole process, Samantha finds comfortable empathy and
friendship in Jasmine (Gail Bean), one of her students, a high school
senior, who is also pregnant by her current boyfriend. Jasmine lives
with her grandmother, and while she does want to go to college, the
lofty pricetag that comes with and the potential of not being there for
her child are budding factors that always cross her mind.
Unexpected deals with how the same sort of circumstance can provide for
different experiences depending on a variety of factors. Both Jasmine
and Samantha aren't wholly far in age (she's about eighteen, she's
maybe in her early-thirties), but their racial divide is clearly
present, especially when considering colleges to apply to and having to
work around Jasmine's tumultuous homelife in order to make college a
reality. If nothing else, Swanberg effectively shows us the idea that
every kid should go to college isn't a bad idea, in theory, but in
practice, without taking into account different financial and stability
situations, is a very messy ordeal.
Swanberg keeps the pregnancy jokes down to a minimum, pleasantly so;
only one scene involving Cheetos and pickle-juice will evoke some form
of nauseousness, while the remainder of the film is helmed by strong
conversations between Samantha and Jasmine, or Samantha and John, as we
see one relationship brew and a marriage that should've never been
slowly divulge into arguments. This is also, somewhat unsurprisingly
so, a story of trying to find your personal identity amidst a change
that will potentially make your life come second to the life of a
child. The recurring theme in many of these newer independent films is
trying to find some comfort in one's self, and Unexpected shows that by
having Samantha's boyfriend trying to dictate what she will do and how
she will live her life following a baby. She doesn't want the next ten
years already laid out before her and she definitely doesn't want them
meticulously mapped out by someone who isn't her.
At Unexpected's core are its performances and dialog, and Smulders
proves that's she's more than a background character in Agents of
S.H.I.E.L.D., in addition to Bean, who has serious acting talent, with
an ability to be emotional without being too obvious in her feelings.
This is a film that really shows how something widely regarded as a
blessing can be a setback or a difficult thing to manage, in addition
to being a circumstance that prompts many different experiences
depending on you, your social class, and your race. It's a uniformly
solid film about very few people have probably seen taken with such a
reserved tenderness despite being such a hot topic of discussion.
Starring: Cobie Smulders, Gail Bean, Anders Holm, and Elizabeth
McGovern. Directed by: Kris Swanberg.
Tags for Unexpected Full Movie
, Cobie Smulders
, Elizabeth McGovern
, Gail Bean
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