GFF 2019: Laia Costa and Josh O'Connor are superb in a devastating relationship drama
Raw and, for some, devastatingly relatable, Only You is an in-depth look at a lesser-seen consequence of falling in love, as it focuses on the agony of infertility. It's the assured directorial debut of Harry Wootliff, a BAFTA nominee for his 2004 short Nits.
Elena and Jake (Spanish actress Laia Costa and Britain's Josh O'Connor) are strangers when they share a cab one New Year's Eve in Glasgow. It's a classic meet-cute; he's sober having DJed that night, she's wasted, has to stop to be sick and impulsively invites him back to hers. They quickly fall into something more long-term but the signs are somewhat ominous. Elena's insecurity about her age – she's 35 and he's 26 – causes her to lie; later, their struggle to have kids puts pressure on their fledgling romance.
The trials of parenthood have been done to death – with a tendency to sugar-coat, last year's Tully being a welcome exception – yet cinema has done little to reduce the stigma or aid understanding of those who undergo fertility treatment. Only You doesn't feel overly maudlin but it is a picture of when the initial spark makes way for reality – it's a fight for Elena and Jake not to buckle under the strain.
The film is most notable as a platform for two deeply affecting performances. God's Own Country's O'Connor again delivers a low-key turn full of endearing inflections, but Costa is even finer in the richer role. She's a performer of knockout power who showed serious dramatic chops when she launched to fame in 2015's one-shot marvel Victoria; here, she makes you feel every single blow as Elena suffers through a specialist's callous assessment of her chance of having children, a friend's trite reassurances and various social gatherings where all around are oblivious to her pain.
With fidgety camerawork that's both sensitive and searching, like 2017's The Escape – which dealt with the dissatisfaction of a suburban housewife – this is the kind of British film that there simply should be more of. It's another ostensibly modest but heartbreakingly real drama that dares to speak uncomfortable, shrewdly discerned truths.
Screening on Fri 22 Feb as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2019. General release TBC.