This relationship drama not only succeeds in its own right, but “20 Weeks” also functions as a strong argument for diversity of voices in filmmaking. Writer-director Leena Pendharkar was inspired by her own experiences, and she’s sharing a story that isn’t often on screen despite being a reality for many. The film gracefully humanizes what is often an abstract, philosophical debate around abortion.
When Maya (Anna Margaret Hollyman) and Ronan (Amir Arison) go to their standard, 20-week check-up with her ob-gyn, they discover that their child may have significant birth defects. Cutting between flashbacks and their present-day reality, “20 Weeks” follows the couple from early moments in their romance to their struggle with the decision of whether to terminate the pregnancy.
Compassion, warmth and tenderness radiate off the screen, thanks to the guiding hand of Pendharkar and the nuanced performances of Hollyman and Arison. Tight close-ups make it impossible to escape either the physical or emotional pain of what we’re witnessing, creating an intimate experience in which we’re right with them in every moment.
Pendharkar could have opted to make either Maya or Ronan less complex and easier to root for, but by making them flawed, she makes them more identifiable and ultimately more sympathetic. Although the script alternately lacks subtlety and clarity in its final act, “20 Weeks” remains compelling if difficult viewing for anyone interested in seeing a variety of parental experiences on screen.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills