Due to Corona, Austria’s Oscar hopes are starting WHAT WE WANTED on Netflix outside of their home country. Whether this decision is obvious or a shame and, above all, what you can expect from the drama with Lavinia Wilson and Elyas M’Barek, we reveal in our review.
OT: What we wanted (AT 2020)
A cloud is gathering over the happiness of Alice (Lavinia Wilson) and Niklas (Elyas M’Barek): they have been planning to have a child for some time. After it became apparent that things would no longer work naturally, the couple switched to artificial insemination. But several attempts immediately failed. In order to recover from the strain of these treatments and to recharge their emotional batteries, the two decide to go on vacation to Sardinia. As soon as they get there, they are constantly told what is bothering them. They constantly meet happy couples with children, and then a family from Tyrol moves into the holiday home next door, which represents everything that Alice and Niklas want. The house blessing will soon go wrong…
The corona pandemic is not only leading to all kinds of suffering in the cinema world, but also to some strange situations. The new film by “We Fly” director Ulrike Kofler was originally scheduled to be released in Austrian cinemas on November 6, 2020. However, due to the increasing number of infections and the following countermeasures, the start of “What We Wanted” there was initially postponed to the end of December 2020. Outside Austria, however, those interested can stream the drama, which was selected as the Austrian candidate for the “Best International Film” Oscar, on Netflix from November 11, 2020. In a very absurd, ironic way, the release policy imitates the film’s story in an unplanned manner: Just as the protagonist couple Alice and Niklas are denied a child while their vacationing neighbors lead a happy life with children, Austria must first look at its neighboring countries with curiosity and impatience , where What We Wanted will be published earlier.
Alice (Lavinia Wilson) and Niklas (Elyas M’Barek) want to recover from the strain of family planning on vacation.
Although we have to admit: This succinct statement does not do justice to the drama, which is based on the short story “The Course of Things” by Peter Stamm. Because director and author Ulrike Kofler and the authors Sandra Bohle (“Fly maybeetle!”) and Marie Kreutzer (“The ground beneath your feet”) dig much deeper than simply spreading out “Oh, how ironic is it that the child-wanting, childless couple is on vacation surrounded by children?” This bitter irony is the backbone of this drama, but Kofler, Bohle and Kreutzer think so a delicate tragedy in it, instead of resting on an Alanis Morissette misinterpretation of “irony”. So it may start out cynically and humorously when Alice and Niklas want to distract themselves from the grief of probably not having children on the sunny beach in Sardinia, while cute, curious children frolic around them. But there is already movement in the way that fate rubs the couple’s unfulfillment in their faces when, for example, they have a slow conversation at a romantic dinner under the stars, while at the next table a child is glued to the iPad and his parents are throwing around a damp mess take care of it. Or when the younger child of the holiday neighbor who has come from Tyrol breaks Alice’s sunglasses while playing around.
“Director and author Ulrike Kofler and the authors Sandra Bohle and Marie Kreutzerbohren much deeper than simply saying throughout the entire film running time, ‘Oh, how ironic is it that the childless couple who want children are on vacation surrounded by children?'”
Because this mishap is not followed by any sugarcoating of Alice and Niklas’ situation. No “Aha, so it’s better not to have children!” Rather, “What We Wanted” uses these and similar situations to plunge the protagonist couple into twisty, deep valleys of thought. Lavinia Wilson (“lap prayers”) and Elyas M’Barek (“Fack ju Göhte”) make the nested, contradictory thought complexes and emotional dead ends that gradually drag down Alice and Niklas non-verbally tangible. They are expressive, even though they play delicately – which is not only a great appeal of “What We Wanted”, as it is finally a relationship drama without nagging, but also intensifies the characterization of these characters. They no longer have the strength for big gestures and extravagant facial expressions. We meet Alice and Niklas almost at the end of their emotional journey as a couple with an increasingly unlikely desire to have children. Their energies have already been used up, their looks and the way they talk to each other express that every conceivable conversation has already been had. And guided again. And again…
The numerous visits to the fertility clinic have left their mark…
Alice and Niklas maintain a “lived-in” dialogue; the conversations in this film always show how sentence fragments or the tired cadence of an argument convey that the characters have had similar arguments, disappointments and considerations. But what is new for her is the highly concentrated examination of how an environment she does not know addresses the issue of childlessness. And all of these kindly intended but naively harmful, completely rude or even invasive advice, encouragement and distractions from your holiday acquaintances are now taking everything to the extreme. Consequently, in conjunction with the whole previous story, this also has serious consequences for Alice and Niklas’ libidos. Kofler skillfully stages caresses, nudity and sex scenes in “What We Wanted” as a physical expression of the state of her characters. Be it her sliding up, commented on with a dull look, or a slow but emotionally painful slowing down of his hip movements: Sex is not sensual here, but the clearest form of communication – but at the same time Kofler avoids the mistake of portraying it as the only true one.
“Alice and Niklas maintain a “lived-in” dialogue; you can always tell from the conversations in this film, as sentence fragments or the tired cadence of an argument convey that the characters have had similar arguments, disappointments and considerations.”
“What We Wanted” also refrains from giving its audience an ultimate answer about the value of a childless couple. In this question, “What We Wanted” is intended as an individual case description, but at the same time it is a memorable, universal warning about how hurtful it is to grill women you don’t know well about their marital status.
Conclusion: “What We Wanted” is a thoughtfully staged, taciturn drama about a relationship at a crossroads, the draining effect of an unfulfilled desire to have children and the tactlessness of those who interact with childless couples. M’Barek and especially Wilson shine under Ulrike Kofler’s delicate direction.
“What We Wanted” will be available to stream on Netflix from November 11th.