Short film review: In Vitro
James R | On 03, Oct 2015
Director: Toby Stephens
Cast: Rupert Penry-Jones, Anna-Louise Plowman, Stephanie Leonidas
Watch In Vitro online: We Are Colony
“How does it feel? Cheating on your wife?” asks a young woman (Leonidas), as she cuddles with a man (Penry-Jones) after sex. He doesn’t say much. “Do you want to know how I feel?” she adds. He looks away. “No.”
It’s a blunt opening to a short film that’s full of blunt shocks. The directorial debut of Toby Stephens, In Vitro chronicles the breakdown of a marriage as a couple tries to overcome the barrier of infertility. In no time at all, the Man has played away from home, the Woman has suffered the pain of loss and the Man’s girlfriend is considering the idea of a family of her own.
If all that sounds rushed, that’s because the script (also by Stephens) jumps back and forth through the muddle of infidelity. But the non-linear narrative only brings the timeline into sharp focus: the sublime editing finds echoes and parallels in almost every fragmented frame, cutting between copulation and conversation, between love and loneliness.
Stephens shoots his cast with a polished, assured grasp of his subject, picking out stains in bedrooms and glances in the workplace. Anna-Louise Plowman is suitably coquettish as the new flame that slowly gets doused, while Leonidas’ brief scenes of anguish are so convincing you almost wish the film was told from her perspective.
Throughout, Penry-Jones does a lot while saying little. The non-stop shuffle of emotions captures his disorienting experience of being caught between two relationships – the noise of his affair bleeds over his attempts to produce semen for IVF – and leaves you wondering who’s to blame, which moment led to which. What on first watch might feel harsh and hurried becomes deeper on repeated viewings; the blunt shocks give way to moving nuance, a spiky shell revealing a tender tale of tiny tragedies. The provocative questions seep into the sheets for hours afterwards.
In Vitro is available to watch online exclusively on WeAreColony.com