If Only

If Only


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

It is unfortunate that Rafa Russo's screenplay resembles Sliding Doors, a second chance romantic fantasy, in which an unfaithful lover has the opportunity to deny temptation, keep the girl and live happier ever after. Comparisons are not fair. Suffice to say that the Gwyneth Paltrow picture is in a different class.

Victor (Douglas Henshall) is an actor who lives with Sylvia (Lena Headey), a psychologist in a messy flat (his fault) in Notting Hill The relationship has reached the "you never say..." and "why didn't you..." phase. He sleeps with someone else, tells Sylvia (he's an idiot and can't handle the guilt) and is told to take a hike. She's miserable, meets a guy at the gym who is everything Victor is not - caring, affectionate, unselfish and dull - and agrees to marry him.

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Meanwhile, Victor's liason has collapsed, due to the boredom factor kicking in early, and he wants Sylvia back. She tells him it's too late, let's be friends, etc. He gets rat-arsed in a club, meets a magical barmaid and is discovered by two mysterious Spanish garbage men in a dustbin. After some unconvincing mumbo jumbo, he finds himself outside his flat on the day he told Sylvia about the other girl. He can't believe his luck (nor can we) and his old life starts over with Sylvia until...

The characters are thinly drawn. Victor is a big baby, who hasn't a clue about women. Sylvia never seems to go to work, or behave as a psychologist might. She looks more like a student, who doesn't feel comfortable when the doobies are passed around. She's pretty and bland, unlike Victor who is noisy and Scottish. Henshall throws himself into the role with his natural enthusiasm and you feel he's out there on his own. Headey can't do anything to make Sylvia interesting. She goes through the motions, but the part has no chemistry.

Penelope Cruz is something else. She arrives late on the scene and brings a sudden sparkle of excitement. If there is a message to this modern fable, it is that relationships are too much like hard graft and, anyway, they're never going to work because everyone's into their own thing, or into themselves.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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If Only packshot
A cheating lover gets a second chance with his partner after meeting a magical barmaid.
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Director: Maria Ripoll

Writer: Rafa Russo

Starring: Lena Headey, Douglas Henshall, Penelope Cruz, Gustavo Salmerón, Mark Strong, Eusebio Lázaro, Charlotte Coleman, Neil Stuke, Elizabeth McGovern

Year: 1998

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France, Germany, Spain, UK, USA


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