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ONLY (2019)

Directed by Takashi Doscher
Written by Takashi Doscher
Starring Freida Pinto, Leslie Odom Jr., Chandler Riggs, Jayson Warner Smith, Joshua Mikel, Mark Ashworth, Tia Hendricks

While it might be all over the news right now, I think the biggest problem with ONLY is that the plague movie is coming out right at the height of the hype of worldwide contagion. I know some are transfixed to their TVs trying to find out the latest developments of COVID-15, but I don’t know if anyone is going to flock to see this one. It’s a shame, because Takashi Doscher has made a sensitive and tragic story of two people trying to weather out a plague.

Freida Pinto from SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES plays Eva, one of the last survivors who has not succumbed to a plague that seems to effect only women. Her boyfriend Will (played by Leslie Odom Jr. who will soon be in HAMILTON and starred in HARRIET) refuses to give up hope and takes painstaking steps to seal up their apartment and keep Eva alive. But once Eva tests positive for the deadly disease, they decide to venture out into the world one last time.

ONLY is a tragic tale that seems to wallow a bit in the agony of living with someone with a terminal illness. There is a slight hope for a cure and this being a movie, I guess there is room for the contrivance of a last minute cure, it wouldn’t give this film the sendoff it deserves. The film is definitely a downer and one that spends a lot of its time lingering on the stars moping around, searching for some kind of hope and overlooking the small moments that they should be savoring. I think, if there is a take away from this film, it’s that gesture of enjoying the small stuff and making every minute count. It’s a strong theme, but not the most chipper of tales, especially in this scary day and age.

The thing that saves ONLY from being overpowering is the strong performances and utter likability of both Pinto and Odom. You can’t help but root for them to find some kind of happiness. And as they venture out into the world outside which has not done well without the existence of women, you hurt as much as they do because the dread of this being their last hurrah is heavy. In all honesty, this likability of the actors is the thing that kept me going with ONLY. The story just proved to be too dire for me in the mood I watched it in. That said, the film is capably shot and wonderfully composed. It’s a film that doesn’t have a lot of action, but there are bits and pieces of tension peppered in along the way. All in all, in front of and behind the camera, this was a film done by extremely talented people.

Delving any deeper into ONLY would prove to be only nitpicking. There are some scenes where Eva attempts to look like a man by putting her hair up into a hat and using makeup to try to paint on some stubble. While Will acknowledges this looks ridiculous, it is not enough of an acknowledgement as there is no way anyone might be fooled by this getup. Pinto is just too beautiful, sleight, and delicate to be manly in any way whatsoever and these scenes push the limits of believability.

There are attempts to flesh out the world around Eva and Will that depict the societal crash that happens when all of the women die. Transgender hookers walk the streets for money. Men are surly and have become much more primal. The news is constantly on, allowing us to see the world collapse. But I wish these aspects would have been realized a little more. Instead, we get the umpteenth time we see survivors make their way through an abandoned grocery store looking for anything that might be salvageable. Those scenes wore out their welcome by the second season of THE WALKING DEAD and they aren’t any fresher here.

Speaking of THE WALKING DEAD, two of the series’ actors show up later in the film as surly survivors. Chandler Riggs (KAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRLLLLL!) and Jayson Warner Smith (Negan’s right hand man Gavin) show up as a desperate father and son looking for a surrogate mom/someone to help repopulate the world. Their relationship offers a bit of a break from the angst between Eva and Will.

ONLY is a slow and patient drama with tinges of thrill and horror occasionally. It’s not afraid to get the sadness and tragedy all over its actors and therefore you as the viewer. For me, ONLY was a little too powerful in its desperation and I felt the need for a comedy afterwards. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. It is just too effective in illustrating its themes and tones. ONLY is a well-acted, good looking film that is effective at communicating bleak and sad moments. If that’s something for you right now, then have at it.