It’s odd that one of the most dramatic, life-changing events of middle-class life – having a baby – tends to be an afterthought at the movies. Babies, more often than not, are presented as incarnations of a successful relationship. Look, they have a child now! Curtain goes down, happily ever after, etcetera. The impact of an infant on one’s life – on a mother’s life – is inevitably elided for warm, loving looks.
Kris Swanberg’s Unexpected doesn’t delve too deeply into the aftermath of childbirth (if that’s the right word!), but throughout its runtime this low-key comedy casually – and funnily – examines the limiting freedom of parenthood – on relationships, on career, on educational aspirations – with rare realism.
Swanberg’s film centres on the dual pregnancies of soon-to-be-unemployed teacher Samantha (Cobie Smulders) and star pupil Jasmine (Gail Bean); pregnancies that unfold with the authentic, uncontrived drama of real life. It’s unostentatious and unambitious, and it all rings true (with the proviso that I do not have children myself). It feels like we’re watching a real classroom, friendly and authoritative both. It feels like we’re watching real relationships, where privilege goes hand-in-hand with naïveté (Samantha proves far less well-equipped for pregnancy than her teenage student). It feels real.