For Reel


Unexpected (2015)
July 30, 2015, 8:34 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Kris Swanberg
2.5 Stars
UnexpectedAs a white, middle-class thirty-something in a mostly black inner city high school, science teacher Samantha (Cobie Smulders) stands out like a sore thumb. The image, in addition to a very clean, polished tone that doesn’t leave many loose ends, might make one question the filmmaker’s motivations. But Unexpected is slightly freed from the white savior genre, instead using the setting to discuss the inherent hypocrisies in Samantha’s very liberalness, the sense that she is sympathetic to a point but doesn’t understand why things don’t always go her way. Had points like that been pushed further, the film might have found some resonance, but unfortunately director Kris Swanberg seems content to showcase the usual touchstones of a pregnancy that have been documented exhaustively by filmmakers that came before her (and often in more interesting ways). It’s also an unusual drama in that it is one of unrepentant goodness–the conflicts are created by characters who operate largely with pure, altruistic intentions. While that might have been satiric, it plays as a staid, inhibiting factor, a whitewashing of the very real sociopolitical conflicts at stake in the subject matter. Smulders is touching in the part and the movie goes down like ice cream, but there’s a growing frustration as the film flirts with difficult material (such as Chicago’s crippled public education system) without really sinking its teeth into them.

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