20 Weeks

The beauty of independent films is that they’re able to touch on subjects that the big studios would never touch. In her second film, 20 Weeks, director Leena Pendharkar focuses on the little-examined pre-parent stage in the life of couplehood. What happens to a couple when parenthood is thrust upon them? And what happens when something goes wrong during pregnancy?

As a loving, unmarried couple, Maya (Anna Margaret Hollyman) and Ronan (Amir Arison) have reached a plateau in their relationship. Ronan wants children and Maya wants a career. For Ronan, children are a deal breaker, and for Maya, she is unsure if this is the right time. As with life, the couple is forced to face difficult decisions as Maya finds herself pregnant.

“…director Leena Pendharkar focuses on the little-examined pre-parent stage in the life of couplehood.”

Inconvenienced, Maya reluctantly embraces her situation and marries Ronan. But movie happiness can only last to the next scene. During a routine check-up at the 20-week mark, Maya’s unborn child is showing signs of abnormal development. One of his hands has not developed properly. To make matters worse, the child’s lungs and other vital organ are showing the same signs of abnormality.

The final verdict is that while the hand will not grow correctly, it is unknown whether Maya and Ronan’s son will mature properly. The story of 20 Weeks is not about the baby, but it’s about the real struggle parents face when doubt is cast over the future of their unborn child. End it now? Take it to term? Pray for a miracle?

20 Weeks is a series of real moments accentuated with authentic dialogue. Situations and setting feel spontaneous and not staged. The glue that holds it all together is the lead actors. Anna Margaret Hollyman gives an exceptional performance transforming from the reluctant mother into her child’s fiercest defender. Amir Arison’s Ronan is a portrait of a father’s heartbreak, whose life-long dream is crushed.

“Anna Margaret Hollyman gives an exceptional performance transforming from the reluctant mother into her child’s fiercest defender.”

Writer/Director Leena Pendharkar has a clear and unique vision on how the story of Maya and Ronan is told. She tells the couple’s story is fragments of time. She heightens the emotional tension of the story by interweaving the difficult moments of the couple’s journey with the happier moments leading to that point. She employs this vehicle masterfully leading us to an emotional gut-punch at the end of the story.

20 Weeks (2017) Written and Directed by Leena Pendharkar. Starring Anna Margaret Hollyman, Amir Arison, and Michelle Krusiec.

4 out of 5 stars

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