Review: What We Wanted (Was wir wollten)

Elyas M'Barek and Lavinia Wilson in What We Wanted

What We Wanted (Was wir wollten) from Austria is that country’s official entry as this year’s Oscar hopeful. With a woman director (Ulrike Kofler) and the attraction of an Austrian film – which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before – this one was a must watch for me.

What We Wanted (Was wir wollten) turned out to be a low-key, slow-moving psychological look into a marriage struggling with infertility.

Lavinia Wilson in What We Want

Alice (Lavinia Wilson) and her husband Niklas (Elyas M’Barek) are informed at the start of the film that their 4th IVF attempt failed. They are in the midst of building a house with room for a baby that isn’t coming. They are up against a financial wall for the IVF treatments and the house.

Elyas M'Barek in What We Want

Although Alice and Niklas loved each other, there was at lot of unspoken tension between them. Their doctor advised them to get away, relax. They went to Sardinia, a place they’d been years ago when life and sex was easier between them.

This time in Sardinia, however, was devoted to a kind of pause – a time to think, process, consider, perhaps love.

The couple have plenty of need to be alone and talk. Instead they confide in strangers. The family in the rental next to them are noisy, friendly, opinionated, and distracting. Christl (Anna Unterberger) and Romed (Lukas Spisser) have two kids they don’t appreciate or understand. Their drama impacts what Alice and Niklas are feeling as the getaway ends and it’s time to go home.

I think this movie won’t be for everyone. You have to be willing to sit with someone’s poorly articulated feelings and try to understand what they want. On the other hand, the artistic direction made everything about windswept Sardinia beautiful. I’m not sure this introspective and delicate film is worthy of the Oscar for best foreign language film of 2020. We’ll have to wait and see if it wins.

This mostly German language film is streaming on Netflix. If you are a fan of German cinema, you may recognize Lavinia Wilson, who has 75 credits in her filmography on IMDB. Some of that work was in English language material. She launches into English as part of What We Wanted (Was wir wollten) and surprised me with her lack of accent.

What We Wanted Poster

Have a look at the trailer.

Are you interested in this Austrian film? I’d love to hear your opinion of it if you watch it.

2 thoughts on “Review: What We Wanted (Was wir wollten)”

  1. I liked your view on this film and the summary of its ‘story’. It’s mood and pace isn’t for everyone, you’re right but it felt like life to me. Unsettling. Especially now, even small encounters can have an impact. But this was no small encounter, with the drama of the son’s action of self-harm. The ending felt like acceptance.

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