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The Screening Room: Unexpected

Unexpected, the endearing indie offering from director Kris Swanberg that opened July 24, sets out to show how disorienting a surprise pregnancy can be. Samantha Abbott, played by Cobie Smulders (of How I Met Your Mother fame) is a science teacher at an inner-city school in Chicago. She discovers one day that she is pregnant and proceeds to Google obsessively, cry uncontrollably and eat toaster waffles dipped in almond butter.

In between handling a new husband (Anders Holm), who well-meaningly encourages her to take a break from her career and “Enjoy being a mom” for a while, and shooting withering looks at her mother, played, appropriately enough, by Elizabeth McGovern, who starred in 1988’s She’s Having a Baby, Samantha learns that one of her promising students, Jasmine (a captivating newcomer named Gail Bean), is also expecting. The two fall into a sweet mentor-mentee friendship that grows in step with their expanding bellies. They take prenatal yoga, compare pregnancy notes and plot how Jasmine will live out her college dream despite having a child.

Quiet and intimate, Unexpected has an authentic feel that it comes upon honestly: Swanberg, who co-wrote the film, is pregnant with her second child; Smulders was expecting her second baby during filming (a real bump!) and had her daughter in early January. Pregnant viewers will feel understood—Smulders is like the everywoman of pregnant women; the birth scene is refreshingly quick and to the point, typical Hollywood-ized labor histrionics kept to a minimum. And while some of the musings on identity retention and other new-motherhood issues are a bit heavy handed, Unexpected offers a charming look at the implications of surrendering yourself to a tiny human being that doesn’t introduce itself for months—and trying extra hard to not lose yourself in the process.

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