Women & Romcoms : Only You (2018)
Updated: May 8, 2022
Elena and Jake meet at New Year's Eve. The one night transforms into a serious relationship. As the new couple tries to start a family, difficulties come in their way and threaten the solidity of their relationship.
Only You is a romance drama written and directed by Harry Wootliff, a British female director. The point of view of the story is from the female lead which adds to the experience and highlight what women can face in romantic relationships. Romance on screen and real life struggles are not incompatible.
© Only You
Elena is 35-year-old woman who seems to have built a good life for herself. She is Spanish and lives in the UK. It is rare to see a European actress starring as a romance but it makes sense since the expat community in the UK is quite big thanks to EU free circulation policy in between the members. Couples like that exist but are never shown on screen. Representing it on screen is a good step forward to reach a broader audience but to also help some couple to see themselves. She is also older than the usual romance lead who is usually in her early to mid twenties. When we meet her, she looks strong with a good flat, good job and overall a good life but when she meets Jake she lies to him. She lies to him because she does not expect things to get serious. That is what makes her human. She is not perfect and her flaws instead of making her seem weak add depth to the character.
It is not an uncommon issue for women to not feel confident about their age. It is not as common to see older women with younger men in mainstream culture although there are plenty of films where the women are younger than the man -like James who is 10 to 15 years younger than his female co-stars. Their is still a social stigma because a woman who dates a younger man is called a cougar but their are no name for an older man dating a younger woman or a younger man dating an older woman. Only You acknowledges that there is stigma for women which is why Elena feels it while Jake struggles to understand it and does not consider it as a problem. But it also makes it normal as it should be.
She is a fully-fleshed out woman and it probably owes a lot to the fact that the screenwriter is a woman too. As Harry Wootliff said in an interview for The Guardian, “I sometimes think it’s all about showing women to be very strong. I like my character because she’s a lot of things: she’s vulnerable, irrational, funny. That’s a woman. We have qualities that are deemed as less admirable – perhaps because we are in a male-dominated society – so why shouldn’t we see them?”.
© Only You
Only You does not only accurately depicts women, it also breaks free of gender stereotypes. The characters outlooks on romance are opposite to what they would be in a classic hollywood romance. Here Jake is the romantic and Elena is the cynic. He grew up with the idea of true everlasting love with his parents who stayed married until his mother died. He remembers his parents's marriage as a blissful state he tries desperately to reach. He wears his heart on his sleeve while Elena is uncomfortable with her feelings. The characters are written to mirror each other and have both to learn from each other. What is the flaw for themselves is what the other character lacks. Jake needs to learn to see the truth and be less naive while Elena needs to learn from Jake how to hope and trust. This transformational journey is framed through their fight with infertility. As they are trying to find a baby, they rapidly have to face the fact thait it will not happen naturally. They decide to go for FIV. Every attempt puts a strain on their relationship. Every attempt raises hope and every pregnancy test brings the failure none of them is ready to go through. Instead of bringing them closer, it drives them apart. Jake sees their struggles as failing at what relationships should be. It is only when he eventually asks his dad and in a very moving scene he admits that they did argue, had their problems. It's not because he did not see them that they were not there. On the other hand Elena struggles to know who she will be without being a mother and what they would fill their lives with.
Their interactions with friends show how sensitive this subject and how still today there is some taboo around it. As if a woman should feel ashamed to not be able to have kids. In a society where women still fight to have the right to remain child-free without being judged, it is interesting to see the other side. The women who want to bear children but can't.
Only You does not show if Jake takes some tests or if there was any discussion about him maybe being sterile. The fact that it is a woman and that it is being made obvious like that shows that in case of suspected infertility, it would still be assumed that it is a problem on the woman side and not because of the man. The film subtly criticizes society's relationship to infertility.
© Only You
One of the best scenes of the film is Jake crying in the bathroom and Elena finding him there. Because it's her body that goes through the treatment, the injections and all the interventions, it is obvious that she is the first affected in every way - physically, biologically and mentally. This scene shows his struggle to find his place and the society struggle on gender equality to find a space for men to be able to express themselves without taking that space out from the woman. It feels like society forgets that men can mourn failed attempts and fatherhood even if their bodies are not affected. Jake represents the modern man - respectful of women and comfortable with his feelings.
For a first film, Only You is very good in the themes it chooses to tackle. It is a well-structured film although, in the first half hour, it happens that the film jumps from one scene to the other without always understanding how the transition happened. It takes a bit of time to get to the main point which is the infertility but once it gets there, it flows smoothly until the end.
It is a very important film to watch because it shows the evolution of romance films and what they can be when directed and written by women with real life themes and taboos, characters close to life and modern love stories told from female perspectives.