Only You Review
Female writer-director Harry Wootliff’s Only You made its first appearance at the London Film Festival last year and nine months later it has found its way onto UK cinema screens. What starts as a conventional romance evolves into a story about a couple dealing with their struggles to conceive, the growing frustration that comes with undergoing the gruelling IVF programme and the many ways it tests their relationship. It’s a premise that struggles to stretch itself across two hours and despite its strong leads, runs out of energy some way before the finish line.
Josh O’Connor (who made a name for himself in God’s Own Country, and more recently as Prince Charles in The Crown) stars as Jake, who first meets Elena (Spanish actress Laia Costa who some may recognise from 2015’s Victoria), when they share a taxi on New Year’s Eve. Instead of going their separate ways they spend the night together which soon develops into an intense relationship. Jake is 26 and studying for a PhD in marine biology, while Elena works full-time in an office. At first she states her age as 29, only to reveal a little further down the line she is actually 35-years-old.
The couple are soon living together, and in what seems like only a short time after, start trying for a baby. It’s a sudden jump that seems at odds with Jake’s character and is based on one brief moment at the home of one of Elena’s friends. The rest of the film hinges on Jake’s unexpected decision and barely gives it a second thought as the story pushes on. Due to Elena’s age it becomes clear they are unable to conceive naturally and are forced down the IVF treatment route, which places their relationship under considerable strain.
Despite spending the entire film in the presence of Jake and Elena – occasionally with friends and family but mostly by themselves – beyond the obvious physical attraction it’s difficult to understand what they see in each other, let alone how they fall head over heels so quickly. Outside of their relationship there isn’t much to the characters; Jake’s studying is barely mentioned, Elena’s work life is vague and they spend no time together exploring each other’s interests. They are largely two dimensional, and for a film that uses a realist style in an attempt to get to the heart of their love for each other, we remain frustratingly distant from the couple.
Another strange omission is the fact no-one raises the idea of adopting a child. In their desperation, Jake and Elena exhaust the IVF route until the very last and yet the subject of adoption, fostering or even surrogacy remain off the table for discussion. It’s not as if Wootliff doesn’t have ample time to bring these subjects up and their absence further underlines how unrealistic the whole thing feels. Only You also takes place over a two year period, although given how soon we are watching the couple plan for a baby it’s hard to nail down a clear timeline of events.
Both O’Connor and Costa do what they can with the material but it isn’t enough to give credibility to their story. Wootliff’s script and direction lack focus so it comes as little surprise that her two actors are left fighting an uphill struggle. Perhaps a more concise approach that saw the runtime trimmed by 20-25 minutes would lessen the weight of the pacing, as even before the laborious final act comes into view the tick of the clock can be heard loud and clear. There may be more to come from Wootliff, and maybe some assistance in the writing department can help, but Only You certainly doesn’t play to any discernible traits she might possess as a filmmaker.
Only You opens in select UK cinemas on July 12.