Nellie is 34 years old, single and childless. And she’s sort of OK with that. After all, she’s trying to launch her jewelry business, she isn’t really ready to settle down yet, and she isn’t even sure if she wants kids.
But it’s hard, too. Every week she’s either going to a wedding or an engagement party or a baby shower. And it doesn’t help that everyone keeps asking about her ex, Sean.
Nellie’s friends keep reassuring her that she’ll find a guy when she isn’t looking—when she least expects it. She could meet Mr. Right tomorrow, be engaged in six months and be pregnant in a year.
Except that Nellie hasn’t been looking, not since she and Sean broke up. Her jewelry business is failing. And, as she discovers at the doctor’s office, her eggs (and therefore her chances of having a child) are diminishing with each year that passes.
Nellie thought that she could take her time, like her friend Monroe did. Monroe waited until she was in her late 30s to marry. And she had her daughter in her early 40s.
But that fantasy is quickly shut down by Monroe. Yes, she waited to marry and have a kid, but it was the most painful process of her life. She and her husband struggled to conceive because of her age. They spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on fertility treatments. There were many miscarriages, and she wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
“Freeze those eggs,” Monroe tells Nellie. Because time is running out.
Nellie’s journey to have her eggs frozen is a painful one—both physically and emotionally. But she realizes that the experience is one of the most intentional things she’s ever done in her life. She writes a letter to her eggs thanking them for granting her peace, time and possibility. And she expresses a hope that someday she’ll get to meet them, signing the letter, “Love, Mom.”
Nellie’s dad spends much of the film criticizing her life choices, including her decision to freeze her eggs. But eventually, he realizes that he’s projecting his own fears about old age onto his daughter. And he apologizes to Nellie for pressuring her to have children.
Jesse, Nellie’s brother, pays for her egg cryopreservation surgery on the condition that she’ll pay him back, or else he gets to keep the eggs (and likely sell them). However, after witnessing how the process changes Nellie, he tells her she doesn’t owe him anything. And Jesse promises he’ll always be there for her.
When Nellie’s best friend, Sheila, has a miscarriage, Nellie reassures Sheila that she hasn’t failed. Nellie agrees to attend a pregnancy loss support group with Sheila, but Sheila bails at the last moment. However, the women in the group welcome Nellie anyways, inviting her to share her own fertility journey and offering support. And later, despite her recent loss, Sheila takes Nellie to her final cryopreservation appointment in support of her friend. [Spoiler Warning: A post-credits scene shows that Sheila is pregnant once again.]
Throughout the film, Nellie’s neighbor Parveen appears to be judging Nellie for her wild lifestyle. However, in a particularly vulnerable moment, Nellie confesses how scared she is about her future, and Parveen responds by holding Nellie’s hand and supporting her.
A man apologizes to his ex-girlfriend after calling her a profane name, admitting that he is angry and vulnerable.
A woman at a pregnancy-loss group believes her baby is in heaven. We hear that a Catholic woman used a Jewish dating app. Nellie says she’ll “manifest” something for her dad and states that the “universe” provides. Someone calls egg cryopreservation “voodoo.” One of Nellie’s exes is a cult leader, and he calls it a “spiritual collective.”
Nellie has sex with several men throughout the film, and nudity shows us everything except for male genitals. We see Nellie without clothes in a few non-sexual situations as well. A few couples kiss.
We learn that Nellie slept with a married man once before—which she clearly regrets. And she has sex with another married man during the film. (She thought he was divorced, but he informs her the next day that he is merely separated and trying to work things out.) We also hear that the same guy cheated on her when they dated in high school. And another ex-boyfriend previously gave her an STD.
It should be noted that all of Nellie’s sexual encounters end in regret. Sometimes she grimaces, as though she might be in pain. In one incident, she employs painful methods to retrieve a condom from her body. And after a man coerces her into having sex (she’s supposed to be abstaining due to the medications she’s on), she freaks out and literally kicks him off for fear that he’ll get her pregnant.
Nellie spends much of the film in her underwear, though this appears to be a directorial choice to highlight what is happening to Nellie’s body as she goes through the cryopreservation process.
Several characters get pregnant out of wedlock. Even after learning that Sean’s new girlfriend is pregnant, Nellie’s dad suggests that Sean and Nellie might still be able to make their relationship work.
Nellie and other women wear tight, revealing outfits. Nellie dances provocatively at weddings. There is a lot of sexual innuendo and crass talk about sex. Nellie admits to sending an unsolicited nude picture to someone. We learn Nellie’s dad was divorced once before. There are two same-sex couples.
A woman asks Nellie for a refund on earrings because they made her “look like a stripper.” Jesse tells a graphic joke about a man who hid drugs inside his anus.
Nellie watches a YouTube video about “Sugar Babies,” women who allow men to pamper them and buy them gifts, usually in exchange for sexual favors (which we hear about). She considers becoming one to pay for her egg cryopreservation treatments. Jesse suggests prostitution to pay for it.
Immediately after a wedding ceremony, a woman questions whether she should have gotten married; she’s reassured by a friend and calms down. Nellie criticizes her parents for giving her incomplete and somewhat inaccurate information about sex when she was a teenager.
Nellie is embarrassed when her male gynecologist tells her a sexual joke is inappropriate.
In order to prepare her eggs for cryopreservation, Nellie must inject herself with several medications every day. We see closeups of the needles as they enter her skin, and sometimes there’s a tiny bit of blood. As Nellie gets further along, we see bruises covering her stomach from the injections. She experiences a lot of pain, using heating pads to alleviate some of this.
Nellie and Sheila reference abortion when talking about one of Nellie’s exes. We later learn that Nellie has had an abortion before, but this also appears to be a painful memory for her. Still, she also takes a Plan B morning-after pill following a sexual encounter.
Monroe slaps Nellie across the face when she realizes that Nellie is trying to follow in her footsteps, telling Nellie that she had to experience many miscarriages and spend thousands of dollars to have her daughter.
We hear that a woman threatened to slit her wrists if she wasn’t engaged by a certain age. Nellie jokes that a friend will be robbed at gunpoint.
The f-word is used nearly 90 times, and the s-word is used about 20. Christ’s name is abused once, and God’s name is abused more than 20 times, paired with “d–n” or “d–mit” in five of those. There are about 10 uses each of “a–” and “b–ch.” And there are one to three uses each of “b–tard,” “d–n,” “d–k,” “h—” and “p-ss.”
Right after her wedding ceremony, Sheila freaks out. She asks Nellie to do a shot with her before the reception, but she only pours one for Nellie. Then she begs Nellie for cocaine. Nellie doesn’t have any, but she offers up Ecstasy instead. They both take a pill, but Sheila doesn’t swallow hers, admitting that she’s pregnant (which is why she didn’t take a shot either). Nellie forces Sheila to spit the drug out, but she spends the rest of the wedding feeling the drug’s effects herself—an act she later regrets.
Characters drink alcohol throughout the film, sometimes to excess and sometimes combining drinks with drugs. Nellie labels one of her ex-boyfriends as “The Burning Man,” and in our first glimpse of him, he’s surrounded by smoke, suggesting he had just been using marijuana.
Nellie puts away a bag of edibles before starting her fertility treatments. Her brother tells a story about a drug search. We hear someone flew to a foreign country for cocaine. Some scenes take place in a bar.
Nellie is required to take several medications and vitamins for her cryopreservation treatments. And she wonders how “junkies” are able to inject themselves with needles, saying how much it hurts.
Throughout the film, we hear disparaging remarks about marriage (someone calls it a “cult of matrimony”) and singleness as well (Nellie jokes she’s been banned to the “island of misfit singles”). Nellie makes several inappropriate jokes about fertility, donor eggs, abortion and more. But it’s also clear she’s deeply upset because so many of her friends have been able to get married and get pregnant so easily.
Nellie and her friends are often rude to each other, and they’re even ruder to people outside their circle. Nellie’s dad dismisses her when she says she’s freezing her eggs because he thinks her doctor is scamming her. Upon revisiting her ex-boyfriends, Nellie gets into a few arguments about the details of their break-ups.
Nellie’s dad and brother act immaturely when she mentions her menstrual cycle. A woman urinates on a toilet. A man’s catchphrase is “time to pee-pee.” Someone vomits. A character talks about flatulence.
Nellie criticizes her dad for giving her a pair of baby moccasins, since their family isn’t ethnically Native American (and since she doesn’t have a baby). However, she regifts the shoes to a pregnant friend, not knowing if the woman is Native American either.
A man on probation rightly gets into trouble with his probation officer after he goes to a bar (which he’s not allowed to do).
Nellie tells her brother, Jesse, that he used to smell like “butthole.”
Scrambled eggs—the literal variety—can be a bit messy. And Nellie’s journey to freeze her eggs is messy, too—on multiple levels.
On one hand, Scrambled gives us a peek at the very real struggles that women face when dealing with infertility. And it was based on director Leah McKendrick’s own experience with cryopreserving her eggs.
That process, we see, is both physically draining and emotionally daunting. Nellie fears that she’ll do something wrong and mess it up. She worries that it won’t work, leaving her barren. And she wonders what will happen if she never meets a nice guy with whom she wants to raise a child.
What’s more, Nellie doesn’t have any sort of faith. She takes no comfort in the conviction that God is in control or that He has a plan for her life. She places all her hopes in science. And while she seems to be a bit more content by film’s end, there’s still a sense that she’s not entirely at peace with the direction her life has taken.
But let’s talk about the path Nellie has followed to get to this point.
Nellie tells her nurse that her vices are her lifestyle, i.e., sex, booze and drugs. And we see a lot of each. Sex and nudity are frequent. Talk about sex is nearly constant. And nudity is present even in non-sexual contexts. Finally, there are also extramarital affairs and same-sex couplings.
We learn that Nellie has had an abortion. And while it’s unclear if she regrets this decision, the memory of it certainly causes her pain as she goes through treatments to preserve her remaining eggs.
Speaking of egg preservation, the process as depicted onscreen here is brutal. Closeups of needles and bruises on Nellie’s stomach paint a very real picture of the physically painful aspect of the procedure Nellie is preparing for. Elsewhere, Nellie’s best friend also experiences a miscarriage, further adding to this story’s emotional weight.
Nellie’s journey is long and arduous, physically, emotionally and relationally. And unfortunately, the film itself feels the same: Scrambled is aptly titled, since this story’s redemptive elements get scrambled into a bunch of messy, R-rated ingredients along the way.
Editor’s Note: This film covers the topics of infertility, pregnancy loss and abortion from a nonbiblical perspective. For more information, check out these resources from Focus on the Family. You can also reach out directly by calling 1-800-A-FAMILY (1-800-232-6459).
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.