“20 WEEKS” is written and directed by Leena Pendharkar. It recently screened at the SDiFF and was a film that captured my attention. Starring Anna Margaret Hollyman and Amir Arison, this story follows a couple living in Los Angeles. They are both career minded, very much in love, and while they share different outlooks on having kids, they have a solid relationship.
Then one day the inevitable happens. They are going to have a child. With a strong bond they work through the wave of emotions a pregnancy will take a couple on and when they go for a scan on the twentieth week, complications arise with the baby’s health. Something that will put a tremendous strain on their relationship.
There is no doubt this is a well-crafted and highly engaging film, but it does introduce subject matter people may not be able to look past as truly serious. People tend to trivialize things and there is the potential for that to happen with the plot of this film. I do hope a majority will be able to see the heath issue raised in this film as simply a catalyst for watching the evolution of this young couple. There will always be a scenario or situation that is worse. We all complain about our problems and life concerns, and we view them as valid issues to our own lives. Despite there being many people who would dream to have our various hardships compared to their own personal experiences.
With that said, this was a nicely structured story-line that was told in a non-linear style. This was able to effectively build intrigue. Pieces of their relationship are captured through flashback scenes very timely and the doses of substance give depth to their relationship when the interest is at its peak. A scene will capture a dynamic of their relationship and it will rouse curiosity. Then, when a scene soon after weaves in seamlessly from an earlier stage of their relationship, it fits information in like pieces to a puzzle. As the film progresses the script uses these techniques to paint a larger picture of this relationship, and the mindset of the two involved to a very compelling result.
The film then introduced the emotional trigger. That being the health concern with the pregnancy. The unknowns with what will happen soon effect Ronan and Maya in different ways. The subtle reversal of roles this story captured was realistic, because it happens every day. Sometimes people that don’t think they are ready for something, truly are. Sometimes people that think they are ready for something are in fact, not.
This is a part of life anyone can relate to and that, along with the effects this causes on their normal relationship, were easy story elements to connect with. That was something this film thrived on, realism. It was a film, but it felt like an intimate peek at this couple and not a Hollywood production. A film aspect that in my opinion are what make independent projects like these so enjoyable.
The performances from Anna Margaret Hollyman and Amir Arison were fantastic and they poured themselves into their roles. Both were able to convey such a deep sense of emotional intensity. The personas they deliver, and the heart they show was award worthy. They were unassuming, but so impactful with grounded, very raw performances. They captured an organic chemistry with one another and it made me connect with the characters so much more. When the script builds substance to the characters and the performances heighten it, the result can be intriguing. Something both Hollyman and Arison pull off with visible effort.
The direction was subtle but perfect for this tone of this film. You feel like an observer watching this couple and the camerawork compliments it extremely well. The selection of settings and backdrops are appealing. The camera techniques and choice of angles give it an intimate feel that I always enjoy. It helps immerse me in the story and without an abundance of lighting and Hollywood flare it gives the film a nice documentary style vibe which makes the emotional impact of the characters lives that much more attention grabbing.
A film with this plot-line could easily force the melodramatics. The emotional heartstrings could be manipulated by pushing certain narratives and dynamics, but “20 Weeks” does not do that. It keeps the situation and the connection between the characters as the focus. The performances show energy and charisma and I recommend checking this film out. If you like down-to-earth, tightly written dramas where the character performances shine then “20 Weeks” will be a worth your time and I suggest seeking it out at a film festival near you.