When Private Life came out in 2018, it got a ton of media attention for being a movie that not only addressed the elephant of infertility but was actually about infertility. Infertility was not a subplot or a punchline, it was represented in-depth of how consuming it is to the people living the experience. So when I heard about this movie, I couldn’t wait to see it. I sat down to watch it, and within first 10 minutes, I was shouting at the screen. Within 20, I turned it off. It was too much for me as an embryologist to see the medical aspects of infertility presented less than accurately. I thought their doctor was a little incompetent, a little callous, and I would have loved to refer them somewhere else. And that’s where I left it- if it came up, I didn’t like the movie.
This week, I sat down and steeled myself to watch the whole thing, so that I can give an honest review (I admit with the intention of tearing it to shreds.) I got to the credits….and for a moment I was stunned to silence. Then I was back to shouting at the TV screen (and my husband). The ending was so epically, perfectly emotionally gut wrenching that it redeemed any complaints I had about the rest of the movie. I am begrudgingly forced to admit that they put so much wonderful energy into accurately representing the emotional rollercoaster of infertility that they made up for the minor details that weren’t perfect in their representation of the medical.
Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) and Richard (Paul Giamatti) are attempting to start a family in their 40s. They have experienced multiple IUI cycles, and an adoption attempt that fell through. Over the course of the movie, they go through the process of an expensive IVF cycle that fails, and an expensive and emotional donor egg cycle that ultimately fails. They have less than supportive family members that want them to give up and move on, and they struggle with the endless fees of fertility treatment. They struggle with differing and evolving views on biological connection to the child they want. They question themselves and their life choices and the impact they had on their ability to have children. These are genuine raw experiences that are so relatable. But what makes the entire movie is the last 30 seconds. Rachel and Richard heard from the adoption agency and are sitting in a café waiting to meet with a woman. We know they have been in this seat in the past, and the woman did not show….. And then the credits roll. They leave you sitting there awkwardly without the happy ending with a bow on top. We don’t know how this journey ends for them. And unfortunately, this is the rawest realest representation of the journey to parenthood that there could ever possibly be. For anyone living the experience, it is so hard to see through failed attempt after failed attempt, disappointment after disappointment, to the end, often years down the road, of a child in their arms. My heart ached for Rachel and Richard, and I hope they ultimately have the child of their dreams, but we don’t get to be distracted by the happy ending- just the struggle and pain of the journey.