Movie Review: ‘UNEXPECTED’ Refuses To Force Heavy-Handed Issues


Cole Clay // Film Critic

UNEXPECTED | 90 min | R
Director: Kris Swanberg
Cast: Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm, Gail Bean and Elizabeth McGovern

A baby on the way can be one of the most exciting and eclectic experiences a couple can through. And each experience is different based on the marital, economic status. What Kris Swanberg’s film UNEXPECTED accomplishes is that no matter what variables are working against you, nothing should be able to take away your spirit on this journey.

Inner-city teacher Samantha (Cobie Smulders) is a dedicated to her job, her boyfriend John (Anders Holm in a nice little dramatic role), and has been happily going through the motions. But when she and one of her most promising students Jasmine (Gail Bean) become pregnant at the same time, they form a likely relationship that helps them navigate through their pregnancies.

I love how Swanberg handles the economic divide with her two main characters, Samantha and Jasmine. Instead of making it about black/white relations (there was literally a movie earlier this year about race relations staring Kevin Costner called BLACK OR WHITE), Swanberg let’s the audience get to know the characters for whom they are as people. Samantha is not just your average middle class woman who should be put inside of a box. She’s a living, breathing human being that is just as scared to have a child as her counterpart. I hadn’t seen Gail Bean before this film but she brings Jasmine to life expertly. Swanberg and Bean have a undoubted creative chemistry that could have making the crux of the film about heavy-hand economic values and the simple drab that a lesser and frankly lazier film would try to tackle.

Smulders (left) and Bean (right) in UNEXPECTED

Cobie Smulders and Gail Bean in UNEXPECTED. Photo courtesy of The Film Arcade.

Swanberg’s ginger directorial touch doesn’t force teachable moments from her two protagonists. Nobody is on a special quest to grow exponentially and wield the hammer of Gondor. It’s just a simple story about two people finding connections in similar, yet unlikely situations. I can’t wait to see what Swanberg tackles next. Her brand of independent film making is intelligent and endearing and is most importantly true to life.

UNEXPECTED opens in limited release today.
Dallas: AMC Grapevine Mills

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.