With Only You, the British relationship drama takes a turn away from the kitchen sink miserablism of Nil by Mouth or Tyrannosaur, delivering a film of passion, codependency and dreams of domestic bliss that are just out of reach. Writer/director Harry Wootif’s debut feature is skilful but never inspired. Matter-of-factly set in Glasgow, giant apartments and plush houses establish us in a comfortably well-to-do metier, as two outsiders, an Englishman and a Spanish woman, isolate themselves from the historical landscapes of the city.
After meeting on New Year’s eve and sharing an immediate spark, Laia Costa’s Elena and Josh O’Connor’s Jake, who both superbly sell the passion and pain, deal with a nine-year age gap. Elena worries that when she hits 40, Jake will still want to sleep with 25-year-olds. And the issues of maturity already show, as she begins to have maternal pangs and Jake foolishly tries to reach her wavelength on adulthood responsibility.
They rush into moving in together, and then into trying for a baby. It’s like they know their time could be short so they try to live out a life together. The IVF treatment becomes the primary focus of the film, but it leads to a certain amount of dramatic inertia. It’s a will they/won’t they about pregnancy that presents clear problems and a couple to root for, but doesn’t provide real emotional stimulation.
Costa and O’Connor have a chemistry which is well exploited by the handheld camerawork, swooping in close and ducking around their figures. If one of them gestures with their hands, the camera follows that movement. This results in lots of scenes of the couple laying in bed and gazing into each other’s eyes. These sensual moments mask a film that’s slight and unable to wrestle with questions outside of the couple’s very blinkered viewpoint. Why should we believe in their right to a child, especially as it is predicated on ageing anxiety and seeing other couples having their own sprogs? At least Private Life, a recent Tamara Jenkins comedy, poked fun at the self-righteousness of its want-to-be parents. Maudlin hospital scenes add some grit, but Only You frustratingly follows the beats of the Hollywood romance, complete with eager-to-listen best friends, potential other lovers and a supposedly irrevocable argument 20 minutes before the end.
Only You is a strong first feature from Harry Wootif that shows off his ability with filming actors, but it’s hampered by a generic screenplay that does no justice to his technique. If Josh O’Connor and Laia Costa aren’t already household names, their stunning performances here prove that they will be.
Only You is released in select cinemas on 12th July 2019.
Watch the trailer for Only You here: