Every so often, a subject or idea worms its way into the zeitgeist resulting in multiple films. My favourite example of this is how twice Toby Jones has taken a role in a biopic only for someone else to play the same person in a higher profile project around the same time. There is a certain humour to it. What’s not a laughing matter is the constant legislation around access to abortion and female bodies in the US. It makes sense it is in the zeitgeist, with multiple films focusing on the issue. It’s a serious subject, and while films like Never Rarely Sometimes Always treats it as such, a pair of recent films took a different path going the buddy-comedy road trip route, an unconventional choice. Unpregnant, which was released last fall, and Plan B, which was released last month in the US (still waiting on a Canadian release), share multiple similarities, both in the subject matter they tackle and their execution.
Unpregnant centers on Veronica (played by Haley Lu Richardson), a type-A girl who finds herself pregnant in Missouri, where she’s unable to get an abortion without parental consent, and the closest place she can is in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Afraid to ask her current group of friends, she asks her ex-best friend Bailey (played by Barbie Ferreira) to drive with her.
Plan B centers on Sunny (played by Kuhoo Verma), who has sex for the first time at a party and, after realizing the condom came off, wants to get Plan B. Only South Dakota has a conscious clause, and the pharmacist refuses to sell it to her best friend Lupe (played by Victoria Moroles), who pretends to be the one to need it. So they plan to head on a 3-hour drive to the closest Planned Parenthood.
The girls in Plan B, much like the title of their film suggests, are earlier in their journeys of self-discovery than the girls in Unpregnant. Bailey and Lupe are both gay, but while Bailey has been out to her family for five years, Lupe starts the film in the closet to everyone. Sunny’s need for Plan B resulted from her insecurities over the boy she liked and assuming he left her party with another girl. Veronica, on the other hand, discovering the circumstances behind her pregnancy, pushes her to realize that her boyfriend is a jerk.
If you’re worried that due to the subject matter these films will be “anti-men” you needn’t. While both films have male antagonists, they also have great examples of male allies. The films also portray women perpetuating patriarchal bullying.
Both films rely on their pairs of leads to carry the majority of their runtimes. The stars of Unpregnant, Hayley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira have more experience in this area, Hayley has been the female lead in a film before and Barbie has an episode of Euphoria centered on her, and both carried their movie with aplomb. So, I was surprised to find myself even more captured by Kuhoo Verma and Victoria Moroles performances in Plan B. Perhaps, it’s because before this I’d only seen them in supporting/bit roles but how they both managed to infuse a sense of wonder to their performances that paired perfectly with their characters’ journeys was memorable in a way that makes me hope to see them leading in many future projects.
In both films, the girls face obstacles, plans fall apart, and they fight with each other, but in the end, they are closer than they started. At times it’s easy to get lost in the road comedy of it all but both movies are good at drawing it back to the subject matter before you get too comfortable. Comedy is political and these films are both enjoyable with strong performances by their leads that can make you mad and want to fight the system that polices women’s bodies.
Both films are worth watching, especially if you enjoy movies like Booksmart and Superbad. Though, Plan B does offer something Unpregnant doesn’t. It has two BIPOC female leads, one of which is South Asian; this is something we don’t often see in North American films, let alone teen comedies.
Unpregnant currently available on HBO Max in the US and Crave in Canada.
Plan B currently available on Hulu in the US.