American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
There is never an ideal time to get pregnant. Anyone who’s ever been pregnant can attest to this. Financially, emotionally, psychologically—you’re never going to find a moment when all these elements line up magically, AND you happen to be ovulating.
“Unexpected” approaches this universal phenomenon from a couple different perspectives and with a lot of heart. On paper, director and co-writer Kris Swanberg’s film may look like something sentimental and formulaic that you’d see on the Lifetime channel: Cobie Smulders stars as a high school science teacher in inner-city Chicago who discovers she’s pregnant at the same time as her star student, a senior with dreams of going to college. The two form an unlikely friendship as they attend prenatal yoga classes together, indulge their food cravings and support each other through the ups and downs of carrying a child.
But Swanberg finds a pleasingly low-key tone throughout the film, which (blissfully) is especially true during the kinds of moments that usually are played for wacky laughs in pregnancy comedies. (Peeing on a stick, puking in a trashcan, dashing to the hospital, etc.) And the bond that forms between Smulders’ character, Samantha, and Gail Bean as the teenage Jasmine feels tender, genuine and unforced. Except for a bit of contrived conflict that arises toward the end, the connection between these two expectant mothers—who are at vastly different points in their lives—rings with a mutual kindness and compassion.
Samantha encourages all her students to go to college, even as her own situation is in flux. The predominately black school where she teaches is shutting down at the end of the year, which will put her out of a job. She enjoys a modest but fulfilling life with her boyfriend (a quietly supportive Anders Holm from “Workaholics”), with whom marriage and kids were on the horizon eventually. That whole process speeds up, though, once she starts feeling uneasy and a pregnancy test comes back positive.