Will (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and Eva (Freida Pinto) seem destined for a storybook life together, so pure and supportive is their mutual love. But their alone time is suddenly interrupted when Eva’s roommate, Carolyn (Tia Hendricks), bursts through the door and collapses as torrents of mysterious ash fall from the sky. During a chaotic trip to the hospital, Will learns what he needs to do, quickly covering Eva in a hazmat suit, then rushing home with her and hermetically sealing the doors and windows. Weeks become months become years and, after Eva makes a desperate move, the couple is forced to run for their lives.
Only is a mysterious, dreamy post-apocalyptic love story told elegantly and in non-sequential order by director Takashi Doscher. Tony Award-winner Odom, Jr. (Hamilton) and Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) play the doomed couple whose fear that their secret will be revealed unveils the layers of pain and longing between them. As Will and Eva struggle to reach a beloved waterfall from their past, the couple attempts to survive in a new world where she is a commodity of unparalleled worth.
While watching Only, I was furiously taking notes because I wanted to remember every little nuance I was experiencing. From the opening scene, the imagery is haunting and a sense of doom and urgency sit in the pit of your stomach. The phenomenally edited film builds its intensity through non-linear storytelling. While it can be a challenge to follow at times, it is an effective way to make sure you are paying full attention. At every turn in the script, I was surprised. Its dark premise will take you down a rabbit hole of needing to find answers. Once the puzzle is solved and all the pieces are in place, your stomach will drop and your soul will weep. The captivating performances from Frieda Pinto and Leslie Odom, Jr. help Only stand apart from Tribeca’s other selections this year. Their chemistry is electrifying. With subtly suggested elements of Handmaids Tale weaved into the narrative, this post-apocalyptic tale has an eerie patriarchal theme that makes it all the more upsetting. Only is easily one of the best of the fest this year.