Netflix film Private Life is atmospheric and impresses with dialogue, but the persistent subject matter may not give the audiences a good time.
Private Life is exhausting. That’s only because the Netflix film follows a couple so absorbed with family planning that each failure to conceive is demonstrated by a depressing atmosphere, and a sense of unspoken words between the characters.
Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) and Richard (Paul Giamatti) do not give the impression that their relationship is instilled with passion. The opening scene symbolically gives away their sexless life; Rachel is laid on the bed and Richard starts pulling down her underwear – this is accompanied with heavy breathing, in a ruse to trick the audience. In fact, Richard was innocently jabbing her with an injection; the couple is about to undergo expensive IVF treatment.
Private Life is really an embodiment of the stresses of family planning, which many people take for granted. But for another majority, trying to have a baby is not always straightforward. Each scene is consumed by their desire to have a child; whether it be adoption, IVF or egg donor, you can feel the weight it has on a couple. You could argue that the ultimate goal of the story is to give both characters what they want, but Private Life is not necessarily about having to have a baby; it is about perspective, possessed of similar traits to The Land of Steady Habits.
Private Life offers you a reality into the later life of a relationship and how ultimate goals can often allow you to forget what else is important. Rachel and Richard spend a good amount of screen time failing to communicate the supportive messages and instead worry about their next family planning option. Private Life often feels like two close friends trying to have a baby for their own selfish reasons.
The characters are not selfish, though, but that does not mean Private Life is enjoyable. Despite the slightly dark humour that sometimes is uttered under the characters’ breath, at times I felt the Netflix film completely forgot it had an audience. The movie has outstanding performances driving it; Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti excel in achieving that sexless relationship dynamic, but the film gives little reason for it to be enjoyed.
The only shining light Private Life offers is Sadie (Kayli Carter), who offers to be an egg donor. She at least provides some energy into the story whereby family and friend dinners become extremely awkward due to a slip of a tongue. Sadie brings scenes to life, as Rachel and Richard often approach their conversation differently when she is in the room.
Private Life is technically on point from a dialogue perspective, and if you have gone through the stresses of family planning in the past, you will be able to relate perhaps in saddening ways. However, the way the story is formed strays away from allowing the audience to feel any energy by the time the credits roll – it is a miserable process of events. For the performances alone and the atmospheric scenes, Private Life is worth a shot.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.