IVF remains a rarely discussed topic in cinema, even though millions of people go through it each year, which makes Harry Wootliff’s debut feature, Only You, all the more refreshing.
It all begins, as many romantic dramas do, with a meet-cute. One New Year’s Eve in Glasgow, Jake (Josh O’Connor) a part-time DJ and PhD student, and Elena (Laia Costa) a Spanish expat working at the city’s Centre for Contemporary Arts end up sharing a cab home. It leads to a passionate one-night stand, where the couple make love to the on-the-nose choice of Elvis Costello’s ‘I Want You’. It’s the beginning of a whirlwind romance. They start dating, Jake (whose life fits in a suitcase) moves in and then they decide to try for a baby. It’s here that their troubles begin.
O’Connor and Costa make us believe whole-heartedly in their relationship. You never question their choices, we merely enjoy the emotion. Then Elena reveals that she’s nearly a decade older than Jake. “You’re going to want to fuck twenty-five-year-olds”, she says with more compassion than the line suggests. Jake doesn’t care, he’s in love. But Elena, older and wiser, knows that love can only carry them so far. As Elena predicted, hairline cracks begin to show in their relationship, and you start to wonder if their bond will stand the test of time.
Wootliff cannily turns familiar clichés on their head with startling insight. It’s not only refreshing that the film concerns an older woman and a younger man, but it’s also the way Wootliff handles things. O’Connor’s Jake, which his crisp middle-class accent is likeable, even if he’s a little petulant and fool-hardy. Costa, who has the harder task, brings a heart-wrenching depth to Elena’s feelings of failure and frustration. It’s a performance that bleeds with compassion for her dilemma.
It’s not just Wootliff’s characters that are refreshingly rendered. The backdrop of Glasgow, captured by Shabier Kirchner’s saffron-tinted cinematography, has never looked so beautiful. Of course, there’s no rhyme or reason as to how a middle-class Brit and a Spanish woman have ended up there, but that really is by-the-by.
Wootliff’s script occasionally buckles under the psychological weight of the story, with one too many clichés sneaking through despite the originality of the concept (Jake calling Elena “Mrs Robinson” feels a little off).
Last year, Tamara Jenkin’s Private Life, starring Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti, charted similar territory, and admittedly did it with greater success. Nevertheless, Wootliff has crafted an emotionally rich debut which will leave you excited to see what comes next.
Joseph Walsh | @JosephDAWalsh