In Unpregnant, seventeen-year-old Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) never thought she’d want to fail a test–that is, until she finds herself staring at a piece of plastic with a blue plus. With a promising college-bound future now disappearing before her eyes, Veronica considers a decision she never imagined she’d have to make. This never-taken-lightly decision leads her on a 1000 mile hilarious road trip to New Mexico over three days with her ex-best friend, Bailey (Barbie Ferreira) where they discover sometimes the most important choice you’ll make in life is who your friends are.
2020 may be a truly awful year for us all around the world, but it admittedly has had some pleasant surprises up its sleeves. While movie theatres aren’t churning out new release movies too frequently right now and haven’t been since about March, there have still been plenty of new release films going straight to video on demand. Many of these new releases have been nothing short of amazing, and Rachel Lee Goldenberg’s Unpregnant is no exception.
There have been numerous coming-of-age films so far this year, but Unpregnant is perhaps the wildest yet emotionally strong film in that genre of the year. One minute you’ll find yourself in near stitches laughing at the zany antics that our lead protagonists Veronica and Bailey get up to, but then holding back tears the very next minute. But it never feels sloppy and it never feels like the tonal shifts don’t work. They do. The screenplay here is absolutely chalked full of humor but also manages to carry immense emotional heft with it.
A large part as to why Unpregnant works as well as it does is thanks to the two lead performances from Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira. I have been a fan of Richardson’s for a long time now ever since seeing her in Kelly Fremon Craig’s masterful The Edge of Seventeen, but I haven’t seen her in too many projects since then. Although she was great in The Edge of Seventeen, her performance here as Veronica Clarke is without a doubt her strongest work to date. It may even be award-worthy. She feels so raw and unfiltered throughout the entirety of the film and is effortlessly able to be equal parts hilarious and heartfelt here.
But Barbie Ferreira is absolutely hysterical as Bailey Butler. The two actresses have some of the best chemistry I have seen in a coming-of-age film in an extremely long time. Together, they have the best coming-of-age duo since Amy and Molly from Booksmart. Every time they’re on-screen together, they radiate energy and charisma and it’s almost impossible not to smile while watching their performances here.
Something I was really impressed by with Unpregnant is its handling of Veronica and Bailey. They are extremely flawed and feel so realistic. They are not perfect people and throughout the movie, they make dozens of mistakes. There are some instances in which they get into massive arguments with one another because while they may be friends, they don’t agree with each other on every topic. Veronica and Bailey aren’t squeaky clean, and I was so glad to see a film that boasted lovable yet flawed characters.
The film isn’t perfect however as it does have a number of flaws along the journey. For example, in the second act, the movie introduces a few new characters and they feel way too goofy and cartoonish. It’s here where Unpregnant feels a little bit too over-the-top for its own good. There’s this whole subplot that gets introduced but it doesn’t stick around for too long, thankfully.
All in all though, Unpregnant is one of the most surprising movies of the entire year. Going in, I had absolutely no expectations and by the end of it, I had a gigantic smile on my face and even got close to tearing up. It’s definitely one of the most impressive coming-of-age films in a while and one that you should seek out as soon as possible.
Unpregnant is a gleefully heartfelt and immensely hilarious coming-of-age comedy-drama fueled by two remarkable performances from Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira.
Overall Grade: A-
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual content, strong language, and some drug references
Directed by: Rachel Lee Goldenberg
Distributed by: HBO Max
Release Date: September 10, 2020
Running Time: 103 minutes