The Distancer: Sunday, August 2, 2020

DAY 143: Unexpected

Hi friends! Hope you had a great weekend in whatever fashion you chose to spend it.

Wait, it’s already almost Monday?

A friend of mine shared this video, and I just found it deeply soothing — maybe it’s the pickup you need today, so thought I’d pass it along for your listening as well.

Also, I forgot to properly mourn HBO GO yesterday, the streaming app that the company effectively killed to transition people over to HBO Max. CNet has some more details on what’s going down here. Per the survey back in June, it appeared that more people thought they did not have access to HBO Max than thought they did, so I’ve largely stayed away from recommending titles exclusive to the platform. But now that HBO GO has gone the way of Vine and Betamax, maybe it’s worth you checking again? (And if you do have it now but didn’t before, please reach out! There’s so much I want to recommend on the platform but have been holding back from writing about.)

You WILL hear more from me on this title soon, but if anyone wants to see the best documentary of 2020 so far for free, then register to watch a sneak preview of Boys State this Friday, August 7, at 8pm ET! Details below ⬇️

On a somewhat happy note, NYC residents and other urban-dwellers who feel like they’ve been operating in a limited range of motion due to avoiding public transit might find this story interesting. The New York Times asks, Is the Subway Risky? It May Be Safer Than You Think,” and points to major cities abroad with rigorous contact tracing. From all the data points thus far, there have not been any coronavirus clusters tied to mass transit. A key graf: “Among the range of urban activities, the experts say, riding the subway is probably riskier than walking outdoors but safer than indoor dining.”

Today’s charity shoutout goes to the National Diaper Bank Network. I found it staggering to learn that 1 in 3 U.S. families experiences diaper need. Without diapers, a chain reaction of events can be set off that involves children getting sick, being unable to attend daycare and then their parents unable to attend work. Let’s help stop this vicious cycle at the start!

Donate to National Diaper Bank Network

Now, what you came for…

DAY 143: Unexpected (available on Amazon Prime and Peacock)

I’m all about the modest, deeply felt human drama that registers on an intimate scale, and such are the charms of Kris Rey’s Unexpected. What to expect? Well, there are double the unplanned pregnancies — Cobie Smulders’ Samantha Abbott, an inner-city Chicago high school teacher, as well as her student Jasmine (Gail Bean). Though the logline might sound like it’s teeing up a classic white savior narrative, it sidesteps the clichés and steers into the discomfort. There’s humor and heart throughout, but there’s also disappointment and disarray.

In under an hour and a half, we see the two women at different stages in their lives and different levels of preparedness for an unintended pregnancy manage the fallout. At times, Samantha and Jasmine have much to share and sympathize about. At others, they might as well be living on different planets, with each woman exposing faulty assumptions one has made about the other. For Samantha in particular, the experience humbles her as it exposes her limitations as a teacher, mentor and friend right as she prepares to bring new life in to the world. It’s in these fragile moments where Smulders shines brightest, shedding light on her character’s inner conflict to define herself on her own terms before a baby arrives and forever defines her as a mother.

Unexpected is also an appropriately micro film about the microaggressions working mothers and pregnant women face in society. Because Rey lets us into see these women at their most vulnerable and uncertain, we can also see how these subtle jabs or policy oversights that devalue the contributions of mothers get so deeply under their skin. “It’s a sacrifice either way, whether you work or stay at home,” Samantha’s mother observes in a poignant moment towards the end of the movie. The film illustrates how few women have the luxury of making a choice without significant opportunity costs when it comes to handling maternity. For that reason, it’s important to give people space and allow them grace for whatever they choose.

Be good to yourselves and to each other,

See past recommendations