3 Things to Know about Unexpected, Patricia Heaton's Adoption-Centric Movie
By Michael Foust, Crosswalk.com
Amy is a quirky, optimistic young woman who has a passion for animals and a love for children.
She has plenty of furry critters -- a rabbit named “Binky” is her favorite -- but she and her husband Bob have yet to have a baby.
They’re battling infertility.
Facing a sense of emptiness, Amy pours her energy into other hobbies. She renovates her house. She purchases a few more ducks. She gets a few turkeys.
Soon, she has a small zoo outside her two-story abode.
Still, she has a burning desire to raise a child. She also believes God is watching over her, guiding her family.
“There is a plan for us,” she tells her husband.
The new movie Unexpected (TV-14), streaming on major platforms, follows the adoption-centric story of Amy and Bob as they navigate the trials of life and a yard full of creatures. It was directed by David Hunt and produced by his wife, Patricia Heaton.
Here are three things you should know about it:
It’s Based on a Bestselling Book
Unexpected is based on the popular 2003 book Enslaved by Ducks (Bob Tarte), which told the humorous tale of a man whose life of serenity is interrupted by his wife’s collection of animals.
“We wrote several screenplays based on just the book,” director David Hunt told Crosswalk. None of them, though, satisfied Hunt, who subsequently decided he needed a “different engine” for the movie. He asked screenwriter Rodney Patrick Vaccaro to insert an angle about an infertile couple wanting to adopt. The animals then would “become a substitute” for the children they’ve never had, Hunt said.
Vaccaro wrote the screenplay in about a week -- a quick turnaround for such a project.
“He said, ‘Hey, I never told you this. But both my daughters are adopted,’” Hunt said. “... That was obviously the key into this story.”
The adoption angle, Hunt added, “opened up a whole world” in the film about “the relationship between husband and wife and the struggle people have to get pregnant.”
It’s an Off-Beat, Quirky Comedy
Unexpected tackles a serious subject with off-beat humor. Told by a nurse that her chances of getting pregnant are between 2 and 3 percent, a smiling, bubbly Amy quickly asks, “Do you think it’s closer to two or three?” Told by his editor that his music review is unpublishable because he had written the word “lies” 912 times, Bob responds, “How long did you want it [to be]?” Then there are Bob’s therapists, who are as irresponsible as their patients. (One therapist tells Bob of Zoloft, “The lowest clinical dose is 25 milligrams -- we can start off with 50 milligrams.”)
The unconventional humor makes it one of the smartest, funniest films of 2023.
“Obviously I love comedy,” Heaton told Crosswalk. “I think that's the way into a lot of subject matter that can be really tricky.”
Anna Camp and Joseph Mazzello are marvelous in the lead roles.
It's Life-Affirming and Faith-Centric
Unexpected is filled with uplifting messages, including a reminder that God’s love is vast. Some of the film’s faith-centric moments are merely implied. Other moments are more direct. (Faced with the possibility of an adoption, Amy tells her husband, “God put this baby on our doorstep.”) The film’s inclusion of the 1905 gospel tune His Eye Is on the Sparrow is a perfect fit in this animal-themed plot and reminds us of God’s care for all of creation -- humans and birds alike. The lyrics were written by Civilla Martin (1866-1948) and inspired by such passages as Matthew 6:26 and Matthew 10:29–31. It gains special significance when Bob and Amy -- a middle-class couple -- encounter a young couple who are struggling to find direction in life.
“What that song signifies is that the lives that you're watching in this movie -- they're small lives, they're people you might pass on the street, never notice, never get to know -- but everybody is known, right? Everybody has a story. Everybody's known to God,” Heaton told Crosswalk. “And so that song is about that Scripture. He cares for you… That's why that song is in there.”
The film includes positive messages about family, second chances and finding purpose in pain. It also implicitly promotes life. (One woman in the film references abortion when she says of the procedure, “I just can’t.”)
It’s rated TV-14 for some language and thematic content (details below).
The film gives us a happy ending -- but perhaps not the one we expected.
Unexpected is rated TV-14. Content warnings: We hear mild language (d--n 3, s--t 2, OMG 3, b--ch 1, misuse of “Jesus” 1, misuse of “God” 6). The film contains no nudity but an implied sex scene in which a young couple use plastic wrap for birth control. We also see a man attempt to hang himself; it��s played for laughs and he survives.
Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Images courtesy: Blue Fox Entertainment. Used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.