Jun 072015


Two women, two pregnancies, two very different experiences. A high school science teacher and one of her students bond over their unplanned, unexpected situation. Unexpected is reviewed after the jump.

Samantha (Cobie Smulders) is a science teacher at an inner city Chicago High School. She lives with her long-term partner John (Anders Holm), but they’ve never talked about having kids before. When Samantha falls unexpectedly pregnant, she’s confused and unsure of what this means for both her life with John, and her career. At the same time Samantha discovers that one of her best students Jasmine (played wonderfully by Gail Bean) is pregnant. Jasmine is in her senior year of high-school and has the grades to get into a good college. Samantha and Jasmine form a friendship over their pregnancies, and Samantha pushes Jasmine to not give up on her academic goals.

You might think that Samantha would be better equipped with Jasmine to deal with pregnancy, but it turns out that’s not the case at all. Jasmine has a large extended family which includes many children, and as a result she has been given responsibility with their upbringing and has some idea of what to expect. Samantha has never even changed a diaper. Unexpected gives us two very different pregnancy experiences and reminds us that age doesn’t necessarily equate to wisdom.

I’m a 30 year-old working woman called Samantha, so it would be an understatement to say that Unexpected struck a cord with me. Some women have a choice whether to stay at home or not with their babies, but others don’t. Work or don’t work, there’s so much guilt wrapped up in that decision. Refreshingly, the film lets Samantha grieve the potential loss of her dream job without judging. Having a baby was an abstract construct for her, and the reality of it is hard to process. This is illustrated particularly well during an ultrasound scene, when Samantha becomes a mess of emotions, realising that this baby is something that is actually happening to her.

Unexpected comes from a very personal place, both in terms of the writing and the lead performance from Cobie Smulders. It is based on Kris Swanberg’s own experience becoming pregnant while teaching at a Chicago school. Coincidentally, Smulders was pregnant during filming. An LA Times piece states the Swanberg’s motivations also included the realisation that films about teaching veer towards melodrama, and films about pregnancy veer towards comedy. While there are certainly some funny moments, this film avoids both of the aforementioned afflictions. Unexpected is grounded in reality and is a strong film as a result.

By Sam McCosh

The Facts

Director: Kris Swanberg
Writer(s): Megan Mercier, Kris Swanberg
Starring: Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm, Gail Bean
Runtime: 90 minutes
Remaining SFF Screening Dates: 6:00pm, Weds 10 June (Event Cinemas George St)