Husband and wife team Dan Levy Dagerman and Selina Ringel had an idea.
They wanted to document Ringel’s pregnancy on film in real-time.
Dagerman had visions of the Richard Linklater film Boyhood when he pitched it to Ringel.
They both thought it was a great idea to bring a whole pregnancy to screen so personally, and to increase the weight of that experience, Ringel decided her character should be an SMBC — single mother by choice.
Stories of motherhood are everywhere, and single mothers proliferate entertainment, but sharing the story through a viewpoint still gaining traction offered a unique perspective.
Ringel had always imagined she’d go the route alone if she hadn’t found a partner by 30.
Once upon a time, I had the same goals, but my set age was 33. My foray into motherhood didn’t work out, but many women take that leap.
If it seems like a tremendous step to take on your own, then imagine what it might have been like to take that leap just before COVID hit.
That’s where Single Mother By Choice finds the lead, forging her path with growing paranoia over safety concerns, mounting against the loneliness that everyone suffered during lockdowns.
If, at first, that sounds like a drag, their low-budget, intimate exploration of pregnancy during one of the most frightening times in a century didn’t unfold like that at all.
Understanding the film’s genesis keeps you from wondering why someone would want to set a movie like this during COVID.
There wasn’t any other choice. They couldn’t press pause on the film’s setting any more than Ringel could have pressed pause on her pregnancy.
Eva, Ringel’s character, is a hard-working, successful businesswoman with her own firm. She’s spent her life counting only on herself.
Her absentee father and a free-spirited mother had Eva growing up a little fast with the weight of responsibility bearing on her at a young age.
That also gave Eva the gift of perseverance, and after suffering a miscarriage and a breakup, Eva realized that if she wanted to be a mother, she would have to do it on her own.
Deciding to do it when the world was normal, Eva counted on her best friend and roommate to share the joy. But when her roommate is in Florida with a new girlfriend as the pandemic hits, it leaves Eva all alone without any close emotional support.
Unfortunately, the pregnancy story got overshadowed by pregnancy during COVID.
But even that is a story that needs to be told since many women were right there beside Ringel, weathering the clinical side of the pandemic as the social structures of the world capsized around them.
Thankfully, Single Mother By Choice offers hope, too.
Eva may have wanted to do it alone, but learning that it’s alright to ask for help when needed can be a lifesaver.
The movie was filmed on a small budget, but once you’ve been in Eva’s world for a while, that drifts out the window.
A certain level of intimacy is needed to pull off a movie like this. Ringel was sharing her deeply personal experience with the world, but she was also in lockstep with her husband during filming, which certainly offered her unusual comfort and freedom for her emotional journey.
It could have turned out much differently if they had tried to film this with a large crew, but instead, Single Mother By Choice is a personal study of what it takes to welcome a life into the world and an intimate look at the strength needed to pull off.
Single Mother By Choice is airing on HBO Max.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.
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