Writer and Director: Harry Wootliff
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
How tiresome these generic stories if female fertility have become, and thanks to Glen Close’s performance in Fatal Attraction30 years ago, the frustrated childless woman turned emotional psychopath is a well-worn cliché. Harry Wootliff’s debut film as writer and director ploughs much the same furrow as many before him, turning in an overlong film about a couple driven apart by their conception woes, the only difference being this is an age-gap pairing.
One New Year’s Eve, 35-year old Elena eschew the chance to sleep with her friend’s brother and ends up in a taxi with 26-year old Jake. An intense relationship rapidly develops, within weeks they are living together and in under 6-months talking about having a baby. But things don’t go to plan and a single round of IVF on the NHS is unsuccessful. Elena’s friends are all married and pregnant so as the pressure mounts, the couple finding it hard to cope are driven apart by the process.
Despite all the frustrating clichés, one of the major problems with Wootliff’s story is it’s never clear why Jake and Elena are even together, their relationship moves so quickly that, for an audience, it becomes impossible to believe in them as a couple. There’s lots of playful banter and horsing around, but what exactly Jake sees in the demanding and moony Elena is never clear, while Jake seems like a lovely guy, but there’s nothing of any substance to him. We are never told what they have in common and why they accelerated their relationship so quickly.
Apart from some early references to the 10-year age gap, even that, the one thing that marked this film as different, never really becomes the point of the story, instead, we merely follow the couple through the well-trodden path of fertility-drama and the inevitable toll it takes on their supposed love for one another. But it’s also a very long film, at just shy of two hours there are endless scenes of the couple’s romance and lots of meaningful gazing into the middle distance as they come to terms with the dreadful possibility of never having a biological child. No one suggests adoption or surrogacy.
Josh O’Connor is the big name here, building on a star-making performance in God’s Own Country, and he uses some of his gift for revealing deeper feelings here. But the screenplay gives O’Connor very little to work with, he sells what he can, as we learn in his first scene that Jake is a DJ (something that is never mentioned again) and doing a PhD in an unknown subject. But the rest of his life, his reason for suggesting a child so soon and why he’s so infatuated with Elena remains a mystery.
Laia Costa’s Elena is equally hard to reach and, with a focus on the emotional response to her struggles to get pregnant, nothing about her surrounding life seems credible. She has some kind of office job that remains entirely vague, but it’s enough to support a one-bed flat and some of the fertility apparatus she needs, yet timelines and the day-to-day truth of her life just don’t feel credible. Costa digs deep on the emotion, but because of the overused trope of the 35-year old woman drive to distraction by her hormones it doesn’t translate to the audience as well as it should.
Only Youcan often feel like a laborious watch whereas its subject matter is anything but. Unfortunately for Wootliff this subject has been tackled frequently and better by other writers leaving this interpretation with nothing new to say.
Release Date: 19 October 2018