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IF ONLY

SYNOPSIS:
Victor Bukowski (Douglas Henshall) is having a crisis. His ex-girlfriend Sylvia (Lena Headey) is getting married. Victor blames himself for their break-up (with good reason) and still carries a torch for Sylvia. His life has been in turmoil since Sylvia left, and he hasn’t been able to land a decent acting job. With the wedding imminent, Victor tries to drink away his troubles in a bar, in the process pouring out his soul to the bartender (Elizabeth McGovern). In despair, Victor decides to end it all. But he is saved by two strange garbage men (Gustavo Salmeron and Eusebio Lazaro) who give him a second chance. Victor is transported back to before his break-up with Sylvia. But on his return journey, he meets a writer Louise (Penelope Cruz). Will the course of love run true the second time around?

"There seems to be a fad for so-called 'magic realism' in movies this year. Sliding Doors, What Dreams May Come, Lawn Dogs, Music From Another Room - and now If Only - have all used the device in one way or another. This British film is an amiable effort from Spanish director Maria Ripoll. It has some snappy dialogue and moments of genuine humour. The premise is intriguing (although hardly original), but the script is let down by underdevelopment of the two principal female characters, Sylvia and Louise - the latter in particular lacking vital credibility. The other main problem is the lack of perfect synchronicity in the story - an element which Sliding Doors proved was crucial to the success of this type of film. Douglas Henshall makes a good job of the lead role as the sweet but flawed Victor. Lena Headey and Penelope Cruz make less of an impact. Of the minor characters, Neil Stuke as Freddy, Victor’s long suffering friend, gets some of the best lines in the movie and Elizabeth McGovern has an interesting cameo as a bartender. If Only is an agreeable romantic comedy - it won’t be winning any Oscars, but it’s a good 'date' movie."
David Edwards

"'If Only I could turn back time' . . . oops wrong soundtrack (Sliding Doors). Right sentiment though. In fact, If Only echoes a number of films that deal with alternate realities including Groundhog Day and Julia and Julia as well as Sliding Doors. If Only’s take on the concept is all about regret, second chances and letting go of the past. Nietzsche described the idea of eternal returns as ‘the heaviest of burdens’ and novelist Milan Kundera’s phrase for ephemeral existence is ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’. Henshall’s Victor is caught somewhere betwixt and between, but his past undoubtedly weighs heavily with him and there is an underlying melancholy adding substance to a film that may otherwise have presented as a frothy comedy romance. Although Victor is the only character to be configured as more than a sketch, accomplished performances from the entire cast – complemented by sensitive camera work featuring close-ups and dramatic focal shifts – encourage emotional empathy throughout. The vivacious Lena Headey, sultry Elizabeth McGovern and exotic Penelope Cruz provide irrefutable evidence that earthy sensuality is far sexier than ‘Babewatch-glam’ any day of this or any other alternate reality. It would be easy to pick flaws with the film for structural deficiencies and the jejune magic-scenes involving a couple of latter-day Cervantes’ characters given a Walt Disney-style treatment. But it also has a fascinating bittersweet core, which allows for a thoroughly worthwhile escapist journey."
Brad Green

"There are a variety of ways a movie can annoy you, and this manages quite a few. Boring you with the details is both rude and will ruin it for those who do go and see this film which can only be described as 'worthy.' Without knowing the background in great detail, you could be mistaken for thinking that this film is cashing in on the success of Sliding Doors, but was probably well-advanced before anyone knew what Sliding Doors was. This film is a pretty pedestrian idea into which some life is breathed by an English/Spanish cast. Douglas Henshall is suitably dishevelled and vaguely flouncy enough to fulfill his out-of-work actor assignment. Lena Headey is really good but her character is not particularly great and most of the characters are pretty ordinary and struggle to interest you. The story does, however, occasionally produce something interesting if not different. The film is full of sideshows, funny little asides and mysterious cutaways, like the guy in the bookshop where Victor works who nicks a book while Victor snogs Louise (Penelope Cruz). But as the film moves (slowly) on you begin to dread that you know exactly what is going to happen and unfortunately, it does. Having said this, if someone wants to see it, go with them. It's not 90 minutes you will regret, but you may wish you waited until it came out on video. It is terribly romantic at times and raises a few interesting questions about human relationships and the part fate plays. Nothing earth-shattering or life-changing, but some people may just find themselves challenged. A bit."
Peter Anderson

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

IF ONLY (M15+)
(UK)

CAST: Douglas Henshall, Lena Headey, Penelope Cruz, Charlotte Coleman, Elizabeth McGovern

DIRECTOR: Maria Ripoll

PRODUCER: Juan Gordon

SCRIPT: Rafa Russo

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jose Salmones

EDITOR: Nacho Ruiz Capillas

FOOTSTEPS EDITOR: Manolo Corrales

ART DIRECTOR: Grant Armstrong

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: New Vision

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 17, 1998

AWARDS: Winner Best Screenplay 1998 Montreal World Film Festival







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