Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by Takashi Doscher, Only is a new post-apocalyptic thriller that feels eerily timely given the increase in paranoia surrounding public health. However, despite strong performances and a wealth of interesting ideas, the film leans far too often on tired cliches to be especially enjoyable.
The movie tells the story of a couple as they try to survive against a virus that has wiped out a majority of the world’s women, causing society to begin to collapse. There have been other, more successful films in the past to deal with similar material, like Alfonso Cuarón’s widely beloved Children of Men, because they explore the societal implications in more depth.
At a few points, Doscher’s script starts to explore some of the darker implications that the premise has on the way in which society treats women. The most impactful moments in the movie are those that increase the stakes of the conflict in a way that relates to the main themes. That said, these come few and far between.
The pacing of the film is also extremely inconsistent. Doscher opts for a narrative split between two timelines, and this nonlinear structure rarely pays off. Unfortunately, unlike more effective examples of movies that take this unorthodox approach, Doscher doesn’t seem to have an understanding of the rhythm of the scenes. The film frequently cuts away just as a particular storyline starts to become interesting.
Another shortcoming of the movie is that it fails to invest the audience in the characters or their relationship. Although there are some sequences that have a great deal of emotional impact, scenes that could have been a lot more resonant instead fall flat. Perhaps this is because the emotional climax of the film comes at a weird time given the structure.
That said, the two lead actors in the movie both do a very good job in their roles. Leslie Odom Jr. and Frieda Pinto have enormous chemistry together, and while there aren’t enough scenes that give them meaty material to do together, those parts do work well. Pinto also has some extremely strong scenes on her own.
On a technical level, the film arguably needed a great deal of work. Although some of the visuals are adequately nightmarish, the movie feels a bit too low-key for its own good. Granted, the film is more about the relationship between the characters, but when that part of the movie doesn’t work, it feels like something is missing.
While some portions of Only fully live up to its potential, it more often than not feels like yet another entry into a worn genre. Apart from some admirable performances, this film brings precious little to the table that is new or noteworthy.
Only is now available on VOD.