Premiering at SXSW 2023, Scrambled stars Leah McKendrick in her directorial debut. In this comedy-drama, 34-year-old Nellie (McKendrick) is depicted as the “singleton” among her social circle who spends her time attending her friends’ baby showers, baby reveals and weddings. These events, along with a string of broken relationships behind her, inspire her to freeze her eggs.
Scrambled paints a realistic picture of life as a thirty-something woman – Nellie is surrounded by friends who are settling down while her parents (mostly, her dad Richard) keep asking her about grandchildren. She naturally feels the pressure to have someone in her life – whether it is a husband or a child, even though her only income is her unsuccessful jewellery chain and she is still feeling regrets over her latest break-up. There is a quiet sense of idealism in Nellie’s non-commital lifestyle that sees her “free” from responsibilities but she instead finds herself the reality of “her biological clock” – a well-known stigma of a thirty-something singleton.
McKendrick’s brutally honest screenplay paints a real picture of the mental and physical pressures of thirty-something women, as well as the expectations placed upon them to procreate. This sense of peer pressure is incredibly relatable, as the rising costs nowadays have made things such as weddings and children financially impossible. However, unlike other films that would either result in unexpected pregnancies or endless bouts of sex to conceive, Scrambled shows women have another possibility that can retain their independence and give them peace of mind without jumping into a lifestyle they aren’t ready for. Choosing to freeze her eggs, Nellie dips her toes into the troubles of motherhood by religiously taking her medication, attending medical appointments and abstaining from sex – with a practically non-existent support circle.
In addition, Scrambled conveys a real picture of dating and motherhood. Throughout the film, Nellie reconnects with a string of exes or past acquaintances but in a funny and occasionally cringeworthy way, we discover why most of them are exes: they are either liars, cheats or just plain weirdos and they serve as a sobering reminder to Nellie (and audiences) that dating can be a messy business. All the while, the film highlights the under-discussed bias when it comes to children as men can have children in their later years but women are “against the clock” and feel further pressure from others. Therefore, it is unsurprising that Nellie feels compelled to do something but McKendrick conveys a sensitivity in her performance – through her humour and physicality, she gently reiterates the pressure of the task at hand but brings a tenderness at the emotional depth of her decision. The supporting cast members, including Ego Nwodim as Nellie’s best friend Sheila and Clancy Brown as Richard, flesh out the narrative’s emotional barometer by delivering the ups and downs of motherhood.
Scrambled marks a strong debut for McKendrick, who directs her film with care and class to highlight the sensitivity of the plot elements. However, she is sure to bring in occasional bouts of humour for light relief amid the seriousness and tight pacing. Altogether, it is a well-structured and refreshingly honest drama that highlights the charm of its leading lady and the creative promise of its director – watch this space, McKendrick is going places.
Scrambled is out in US cinemas from Friday 2 February.
Director: Leah McKendrick
Stars: Leah McKendrick, Clancy Brown, Ego Nwodim, Laura Cerón, Andrew Santino
Runtime: 97 minutes