'20 Weeks': Film Review

After this journey, diaper changes and 3 a.m. feedings don't look so bad.
4/13/2018

Leena Pendharkar's relationship drama follows a couple through a problematic pregnancy.

Leaping more or less straight from "I'm not sure I want to have kids" to "What will we name him?," Leena Pendharkar's 20 Weeks charts all the stresses an unplanned pregnancy puts on a couple and nearly none of the fun that presumably happened along the way. Attractive and capably acted but oddly airless, the drama is a downer without offering much reward for our time. Keep those birth-control prescriptions filled, kids.

Anna Margaret Hollyman and Amir Arison play Maya and Ronan, seen first in soft-focus seaside bliss (some of the movie's few happy images) and then in a doctor's office, where they're getting an ultrasound during the 20th week of Maya's pregnancy. So when we flash back to earlier in the relationship — 11 months into it, to be exact — we already know the outcome of the debate underway. "Having kids is hard," Maya winces, but Ronan is gung-ho. At this point in their affair, he says, "we're either on the path or we aren't." And not being on the path, for him, is a dealbreaker. Turns out he'll win the argument by default, when Maya realizes in the middle of their housewarming party that she has conceived without intending to.

And then we're back at that 20-week prenatal visit, around which point viewers may ask why Pendharkar and editor David Hopper are bouncing us around so much in time. As a result of this ultrasound, Maya and Ronan learn their unborn son not only has a disfigured hand but stands a high risk of much more debilitating problems. This might offer some dramatic irony if the couple had been enjoying an uncomplicated enthusiasm about parenting in earlier scenes; as it is, the revelation is just one of the more solid pieces of evidence that having a baby is bad news.

It isn't clear that this is a message Pendharkar intends to convey, though. While her script certainly voices the ambivalence many young women feel about taking this leap — though Maya sounds pretty naive about it at first, seeming to imagine that her career will be threatened only during the nine months she's actually pregnant — in practice it seems to respect each difficult step toward parenting and view each movement away as cowardice.

Having already watched our protagonists debate whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, flashing back to emotional blowups over petty stuff like the color of a nursery wall or the cuteness of a onesie is, at the very least, underwhelming. One starts to imagine putting all these scenes in order, though, and quickly concludes that the film would be an even bigger drag to sit through. Pendharkar's mostly flat and uninspired dialogue starts to sound like a diagram of a crisis rather than its embodiment; though Hollyman and Arison put it across well, we're not left with much feel for their characters as real people. DP Daud Sani's muted, Instagram-ready color palette suggests a more romantic journey than the one we're on, which contains more serious trouble for the two lovers than we've seen so far.

Production companies: Meritage Pictures, Spicy Mango Productions
Distributor: Uncork'd Entertainment
Cast: Anna Margaret Hollyman, Amir Arison, Michelle Krusiec, Sujata Day, Jocelin Donahue
Director-screenwriter: Leena Pendharkar
Producers: Jane Kelly Kosek, Leena Pendharkar
Executive producers: Salia Kariat, Renuka Pullat
Director of photography: Daud Sani
Production designer: Adri Siriwatt
Costume designer: Rachana Sukhadia
Editor: David Hopper
Composer: Kate Simko
Casting director: Emily Schweber

90 minutes