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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 03.07.20] apocalyptic drama

In light of current world events, it feels a bit odd to be talking about a movie like Only but it acts as a good reminder of how bad things can get if the world doesn't manage to get its act together.

Takashi Doscher's third narrative feature, the film unfolds in a nearby future where Eva (Freida Pinto) and Will (Leslie Odom Jr.), newly dating, are having a night in when strange ash starts to fall from the sky. There's no explanation for what's causing this odd snow but almost immediately after it begins, women, including Eva's roommate, begin to get sick and die. As time passes, doctors discover that both men and women are carriers for whatever disease the ash brings with it but it's only deadly to females, and not only of the human species.

As the ash continues to fall, more and more women become die, as do chickens and other female animals. Soon there are no eggs, no milk, no children and as women become essentially extinct, the end of the world seems close at hand. Scientists are trying to re-start the human population through test-tube babies and artificial wombs and the government has even issued a hefty reward for anyone reporting a live woman; all this to say that the men left running the world are desperate and willing to do anything to keep humanity going.

Eva has stayed alive but her struggle has become one of survival rather than living. At first, her confinement is temporary and for a while, there's a feeling that eventually things will return to normal but as time passes, it becomes apparent that there is a new normal and as the death toll rises, Eva's seclusion becomes essential to her survival. Until she decides she's had enough of being locked inside.

While there have been a number of notable films that have observed the collapse of humanity and its aftermath, the sub-category of movies focused on said collapse from a biological perspective is narrow, with the most notable being Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men.

I'm not suggesting that Doscher's Only in on the same level Cuarón's classic, but the film is interesting in part for its scope which is focused not on the long-term aftermath but rather the immediacy of how a pandemic unfolds and how quickly humanity falls into disarray.

Most of the film unfolds within the constraints of Eva's apartment and Doscher, cinematographer Sean Stiegemeier, and editor Josh Land do an excellent job of keeping the storytelling interesting. Some of the film's most powerful scenes come as Eva sits in front of a computer, her only connection to the outside world, as she talks with other women. In a montage, we see the number of women in her circle dwindle until there are only a few; it's a powerful visual and a heartbreaking realization that the end of the world is near.

There are a few different characters that weave in and out of Only but the film relies almost exclusively on the performances from Pinto and Odom Jr., both of whom give great, emotional performances.

Only is certainly more of a low-fi apocalyptic drama and while it tackles somewhat familiar themes, it does so with the help of great performances and some interesting situations and ideas.

Only opens theatrically and is available on VOD on March 6.

Recommended Release: Children of Men

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