At first glance, you may assume Unpregnant, starring Barbie Ferreira and Haley Lu Richardson is the typical coming-of-age road trip movie where two ex-best friends rekindle their lost friendship amidst quirky heist schemes and amateur adventures.
However, writer and director, Rachel Lee Goldenberg, hopes to open up a much bigger conversation with this film; A conversation that is long overdue for the PG-13 comedy genre. Unpregnant should be remembered as the film to take the stigma out of getting an abortion. Oh, and it’s freaking funny, too.
Oftentimes, women are put into positions where pregnancy is not the plan but the unplanned happens and then we’re stuck with the daunting question of: do I keep it or do I not? Or is that just what society tells us we should repeat in our heads over and over again to shame us into feeling guilty for wanting an abortion when we never wanted the pregnancy in the first place? Unlike this modern narrative of feeling the need to question your decision, Unpregnant, is refreshing as it shows Haley Lu Richardson unapologetically ready to get an abortion the moment she finds out the test is positive.
17-year-old “Veronica” (Haley Lu Richardson) is a graduating high school senior about to head off to college when she finds out she has tested positive on a pregnancy test. To make matters worse, a photo of the test gets shared around for the whole school to see. Struggling to keep her pregnancy a secret, Veronica’s so-called circle of “friends” are quick to judge without knowing it’s Veronica’s test. Without wanting anyone to find out, Veronica decides to convince the only person she can think of that might be down for the ride to the abortion clinic, judgment-free. Then enters “Bailey” (Barbie Ferreira) Veronica’s childhood BFF, reluctant to help out but is willing to as a favor for old time’s sake. From broken down limos to carnival rides, they travel outside of their hometown in an attempt to get to the doctor’s appointment on time, terminate the unwanted pregnancy, and avoid their parents finding out.
Wow, I thought to myself after screening the film. Finally, a young woman on screen not crying or seeking advice from another woman in this situation.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing fallacious when it comes to emotions or leaning on another woman. But I couldn’t recall a film I’d seen recently that depicts a young woman ready to terminate a pregnancy without going through a long drawn-out list of reasons why she should feel bad about it. This film takes away the narrative that women have to feel guilty for taking control of their future and doing what’s best for them. Unpregnant reinforces the notion that while we can’t control life, we as women, can take control using our right to make informed decisions when it comes to our body and unwanted pregnancy.
Writer and director, Rachel Lee Goldenberg, spoke about the importance of making a film that opens up the conversation of pro-choice vs. pro-life in a world that finds controversy in the topic.
“This topic has become over stigmatized intentionally through propaganda and really that’s intentional because abortion and reproductive rights, the more stricter the laws become,” said Goldenberg. “For me, it’s about presenting this story where she knows what she wants to do, she does it and she’s grateful for it and her life goes on. That’s the experience that I had and many women have.”
She explains that abortion is more common than society deems it to be and it should be normalized when saying that 1 in 4 women who can get an abortion in the US, get one.
“It’s actually a much more normal than the controversial discussion around it. Everyone knows and loves someone who has had an abortion.”
And with Haley Lu Richardson as the main character, this film has the potential to start important conversations in divided households. If you’re not familiar with who Haley Lu Richardson is; you should be. She has the candid personality comparable to Jennifer Lawrence while on late night talk shows with the down-to-earth, somewhat untamed energy of Miley Cyrus. An absolute delight to chat with, I felt like we could have become besties after laughing about her burping on camera and trying to remain professional while she called me “beautiful” multiple times. (Unheard of in any interview I’ve done!) This girl is on the rise and there’s really no stopping her, especially if she’s willing to take on a role that’s already causing backlash.
When I asked her how she approached the controversial topic, Haley was honest when saying she did have to contemplate “opening up this can of worms” by taking on this role.
“The challenge for me was being in that tone of a movie but not making light of the situation and the choice that she makes,” Richardson said. “That was honestly kind of terrifying for me to do this movie because of how ambitious and complex it is but that also inspired me to do it.”
She went on to say how that no matter what standpoint the audience might be on when it come to abortion, she hopes they’ll stick through the film to the end to see a scene she describes as the heart of the film.
“There’s a scene at the end of the movie with Veronica and her mom where they finally talk about what Veronica just did… I hope people watch beginning to end and no matter how they see the world, I hope they can see that conversation that’s happening between mother and daughter who see the world completely differently and would make completely different choices in the same situation yet they still have this unconditional love for one another.”
Unpregnant was adapted from the young adult HarperCollins novel by authors Jenni Hendriks (How I Met Your Mother) and Ted Caplan (music editor for The Hate U Give, The Greatest Showman), is set to premiere on the platform Thursday, September 10.