Harry Wootliff’s touching feature debut Only You, follows a young couple in Glasgow from their New Year Eve meeting to their struggle to start a family. He’s 26, a PHD student and part-time DJ, she’s 35 with a full-time career and her own flat. After they argue over a taxi and she nearly throws up over him at a New Years Eve party, they end up in her flat. What initially starts as a one-night fling turns into a fully fledged relationship, and they are moving in together before she can even mention him to her friends.
The chemistry between Elena (One-take German thriller Victoria’s Laila Costa) and Jake (The Crown’s Josh O’Connor) is a steamy blend of passion, love and grief. They are soulmates, perfect in each other’s eyes, but the bubble bursts when everyone around them starts having children. Like many women in their thirties, children are an unavoidable topic to Elena. However, curbing the stereotype, it’s actually Jake that brings up the topic of having children.
The couple struggle to conceive, both naturally and after lengthy and painful IVF procedures. Only You doesn’t sugar-coat these appointments, it shows the bruises on her stomach, the regular injections in the work toilets, the medical procedures. The drama gets stuck in a pattern, a direct reflection of Elena and Jake’s struggles, but it may become repetitive to a viewer who doesn’t empathise with the ongoing pains of IVF treatment.
Anyone with experience of Jake and Elena’s struggles will recognise the acute details of the drama. Anyone expecting or with children will connect with Jake’s idealised memories of his own parent’s life and Elena’s fears of repeating the mistakes of her parent’s less rosy relationship. For those childless, the film’s tale of feeling like a failure when all those around you appear to be succeeding without trying is easy to empathise with. The pair’s chemistry and performances fix any plot holes, blurry supporting character development, or lack of plausibility.
Costa channels her feelings of inadequacy with a well-handled subtlety, facing the reality that women have no control over their own bodies and their ticking biological clock. O’Connor plays his role with a naïve positivity, his supportive nature an attempt to feign a maturity beyond his age. Jake and Elena are both wonderfully flawed, their age difference dealt with a wit and breezy matter-of-factness (especially when a nine-year age gap between a young woman and older men has almost come to be expected in cinema). Their relationship, although touchingly romantic, is neither idealistic nor soap opera, assisted by warm and charming performances from the leads.
Only You achieves the astonishing feat of making one couple’s specific story become a universal tale of struggle, jealousy and grief. Wootliff’s writing and directing is strong and thoughtful, curbing the clichés other writer/directors might trip over. Only You is a story that will stick with you long after the credits roll.
Only You is out on Digital December 3rd
by Amelia Harvey
Amelia Harvey is a freelance writer, frustrated novelist and occasional wrangling of international students. She is especially interested in LBGTQ culture and 1960s and 70s music. She also writes for Frame Rated, The People’s Movies and Unkempt Magazine, amongst others. Her favourite films include Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Moulin Rouge and Closer. You can find her on Twitter @MissAmeliaNancy and letterboxd @amelianancy