There aren’t many 17-year-olds who can fathom a pregnancy scare. Already being in
a phase of life where every drama is seemingly the end of the world, becoming
pregnant is unthinkable to many teen girls. Director Rachel Lee Goldenberg has
taken on the challenge of directing Unpregnant, a movie adaptation of the 2019 novel by Jenni Hendricks and Ted Caplan, that embodies this exact fear, among other
teenage issues that are more commonplace.
Veronica, portrayed by Haley Lu Richardson, is a put-together and popular high
schooler with a seemingly perfect life on social media. That façade slowly crumbles
when she takes a pregnancy test at school that is positive and is faced with a
decision to make. Euphoria’s Barbie Ferreira plays Bailey, Veronica’s ex-friend from
childhood, who accidentally sees the test and discovers her newfound secret. Drama
builds as other students attempt to uncover whose positive pregnancy test is later
found in the school trash. The two girls eventually embark on a road trip from
Missouri to New Mexico in search of a clinic to perform an abortion for Veronica.
While traveling states away, both deal with the limitations and regulations some
states have on the controversial topic.
With the near 1,000-mile adventure offering laughs, there are several emotional,
tender female-inspired moments from both stars throughout. Goldenberg, along
with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, manage to create a screenplay that wonderfully
intertwines teen-appropriate dialogue with adult themes.
A surprising gruff cameo from Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito adds another layer
to this fun flick. We catch Esposito depicting a sloppier character that is almost
the opposite of his terrifyingly put together Gus Fring. Nonetheless, he maintains a
seemingly dangerous edge that only he can achieve so effortlessly.
Richardson’s performance in Unpregnant has less of a somber edge than her
previous act in the tear-inducing motion picture Five Feet Apart. Nonetheless, the
25-year-old actress convinces audiences she is a 17-year-old in turmoil. Her acting
style emphasizes what it’s like to be a teenager who faces an adult issue, and how
she copes with it. Just as any teenager would, she flip-flops between moments of
seriousness and being a reckless juvenile that are crafty to watch.
Ferreira shines in her feature film debut. The model turned actress immerses
herself in her role and is convincingly portrayed as a unique high school outcast.
Ferreira executes her character’s laughable jokes and quick wit beautifully, which
helps audiences connect to her character swiftly. However, the tender moments
where she plays a more vulnerable and confused teenager are some of her brightest
minutes on screen.
With this film, Rachel Lee Goldenberg successfully incorporates everything a
teenage movie in 2020 should require: relatable characters, fun outfits, and girl
power. One of the most memorable scenes in the film is a montage explaining the
abortion procedure. Corresponding images of Richardson’s character each step of
the way during the process present a sense of calm, rather than a situation that is
seen as negative or scary. Goldenberg instead elects to glorify the choice a woman
has over their body and future.
An important talking point the film covers — besides abortion — is discovering
your sexuality as a teenager. While Veronica is trying to get an abortion, Bailey is a
young lesbian who struggles with the lack of resources Missouri has to offer the
LGBTQ community. Unlike other films that address this topic, she is authentic and
unwaveringly proud of who she is.
Similar to Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, Unpregnant delves into the quirkiness of being a
teenager and the undeniable bond between two young female friends. It also does
an impeccable job of addressing the beginnings of a girl’s first homosexual
relationship that is sure to inspire young viewers to embrace who they are as well.
While an overall poignant film, there are some scenes peppered throughout that
appear a bit extreme or outrageous and could result in viewers temporarily losing
interest. Nonetheless, the movie’s themes grip audiences right back into the story.
Unpregnant leaves viewers with a refreshing look at serious topics that few movies
have addressed. Having a teen movie delve into these issues is colossal for every
young person watching, especially when Richardson’s character has to deal with the
intimidations of a partner not agreeing with the decision, picketers blocking the
entrance to a clinic and threats that your peers will share your secret.
This film tirelessly attempts to prove that young girls deserve better and they are
capable of making their own choices about their bodies without being shamed for it.
Casting an already beloved young actress such as Richardson and a boldly
entertaining Ferreira as the leads was a calculated and smart move that will invite
viewers to watch their journey.