What We Wanted is an Austrian drama film directed by Ulrike Kofler in his directorial debut. The movie, based on a story by Peter Stamm, was selected for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards.
Kids, relationships and tragedy
What We Wanted is, no doubt, a difficult and uncomfortable watch. Fertility issues are no joke, especially when you’ve exhausted all your avenues to conceive. So, while on a vacation, what do you do when you have to face some difficult questions infront of yourselves and your neighbours? How do you face yourself and accept your reality?
What We Wanted follows a couple with fertility issues who have their marriage tested while on a holiday. Their next-door neighbours also add tension to an already complicated situation.
The movie, from the very first go, establishes that it is not kidding around. The first scene is Alice and Niklas getting to know that they have lost their baby. Having undergone several rounds of IVF, the doctor recommends them to take a break. Apart from fertility issues, we also get to know that the couple has money troubles, especially because their house is getting renovated. Considering the high-stress situation, they decide to go on holiday.
However, this holiday comes with its own problems. Their next-door neighbours are one loud and nosy bunch, and very soon the two families get too close for their own good. When things turn horrifying though, the couple finds a new resolve to sort through the difficulties in their life.
What We Wanted tackles various themes such as infertility, grief and discusses various intimate issues pertaining to appearances and happiness. For Alice and Niklas, Christl’s family is everything that they want, but as they get to know soon that appearances can be deceiving, and this forms the basis for them to repair their failing relationship. It’s emotionally charged and, like most other indie movies, is an extremely calming experience. The movie does not rush through and takes its time to open up to its audiences.
However, calmness only lasts so much, because as the story progresses, it becomes more difficult and complicated, with the pair’s insecurities coming forth, and the neighbour’s problems also peeking through. Parenthood is not as easy an experience, and the couple realises that when the tragedy takes place.
Fair warning though, What We Wanted is a dialogue-heavy movie, and flows slowly. It’s not boring by any means, but it’s not a movie that guarantees a thrilling ride. If anything, it’s dark, complicated and emotionally charged. There’s a lot of different things that the movie makes you feel and makes you assess the complications of parenthood and the responsibilities that come with it. It talks about the different ways people deal with grief in their lives.
The lead pair, unable to understand themselves and each other, see their relationship breaking down. And it’s shown on-screen in the subtlest way and without much fanfare. The breakdown is natural, and feels almost evident – a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode. The leads, Lavinia Wilson and Elyas M’Barek add much depth and emotion into their characters and add the necessary push to make this an engaging watch. Like a lot of other indie movies, What We Wanted has some great shot compositions, and it almost feels like watching a colourful dream.
The movie excellently portrays how people assume that the other person is better off than them without knowing anything about their lives. While Alice and Niklas struggle to conceive, their neighbours don’t take their children seriously – going to the extent of calling one of their (very disturbed) kid an “oops” baby. The differences in the two situations are stark, and although there’s no suspense whatsoever, it’s still an engaging watch.
Summing up: What We Wanted
If you’re in the mood for drama and heavy-handed emotion, What We Wanted might be a good watch. It’s good-looking, has enough going for it and has some good and engaging acting.
What We Wanted is streaming on Netflix.
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