What We Wanted

Movie review by
JK Sooja, Common Sense Media
What We Wanted Movie Poster Image
Couple deals with infertility; nudity, language, sex.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 93 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

True love can overcome life limitations.

Positive Role Models

None of the main characters are particularly positive role models.

Violence

A teen attempts suicide and lies on the ground from an overdose. A thrown wine glass shatters on a wall during an argument. 

Sex

Bare breasts are shown during two lovemaking scenes, two massage scenes that don't lead to sex, a romantic kissing scene in a pool, a scene on the beach in a tent, and when a woman runs after her escaping child. Characters discuss and argue about sex, lack of desire, and "slow sperm." Alice accuses Niklas of not wanting to touch her in months. 

Language

Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "ass."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults often drink wine and discuss wine occasionally. A woman gets visibly drunk after dinner. Two men share a joint while hiking. Some smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that What We Wanted is an Austrian drama about a married couple who desperately want a biological child of their own. Their last round of IVF didn't work, and the state doesn't fund further tries so the doctor suggests they take a vacation. Sadly they agree, but find that they booked a room next to a pleasant similarly-aged couple with two kids, one 5, the other a teen. The two couples spend time together but marital fights ensue, and the childless couple struggles to come to terms with their situation. Many scenes with bare breasts shown: two massage scenes, one that leads to sex, a romantic kissing scene in a pool, a sex scene in a bed, and a scene where a topless mother chases after her escaping child. Fair amount of discussing sex and arguments about sex. Lots of drinking over dinners and once to excess, smoking, and two men share a joint during a hike. A teen attempts suicide. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "ass."  

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What's the story?

In WHAT WE WANTED, a doctor tells a married couple that their 4th round of IVF didn't take and any more attempts are beyond state funding. The doctor recommends to the couple that they take a vacation, so Alice (Lavinia Wilson) and Niklas (Elyas M'Barek) do so and arrive at a nice little island getaway with a room next to a similarly-aged Viennese couple (Anna Unterberger and Lukas Spisser) with two kids, the younger, loud and overfriendly (Iva Hopperger), the teen, quiet and sullen (Fedor Teyml). The childless couple try to make the best of their situation and even befriend their neighbors. Eventually things get to be too much for Alice, but a sudden accident offers a different perspective. 

Is it any good?

Solid performances in this broody film don't lead to a satisfying conclusion. What We Wanted is written, shot, and acted wonderfully, but the story stalls out in the second half. It's a very clearly focused film in the first half, committed to exploring the inner depths, pains, and sorrows of a childless woman and the struggle her husband endures trying to move on and make the best of it. This stereotypical set up doesn't change. The second half is vague because it doesn't know where to go. To conclude the story, the film can't simply deliver a child to Alice or find a sudden way to make Alice okay with not conceiving a child, so it chooses a deus ex machina that ultimately forces everyone to simply go home. There are condolences and niceties. Then with more contentment than before, Alice and Niklas embrace, smile, and kiss, faces far less forlorn for some reason now that they witnessed their vacation neighbor's teen kid try to commit suicide.

Alice and Niklas are likable enough. Their intimately sad portrayal of a couple near the end of a years-long journey to biologically conceive a child is sensitively honest and delivered well. The writing deftly touches upon marital sensitivities that can often take over when dealing with certain issues like this. The only problem is that Alice is very much not into the idea of adoption. This is common, perhaps, but only one conversation is devoted to adoption, and it merely supports Alice's reasons for her limited no adoption position ("I want mine or nothing! It's your eyes, my hair, our features, or nothing!") which only servers to solidify the film's very heteronormative foundations. Additionally, for some alternative families, queer families, adoptee families, single parent families, and even some normative families the stance of these characters (and this film) can make it hard to care about them, Alice's particular pain, Niklas's suffering, and their collective struggle.    

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how What We Wanted depicts the suffering of wanting something you can't have. Given the modern alternatives to family making, how much sympathy do you have for Alice?

  • What would have happened if Alice and Niklas booked a room next to a couple with no kids in tow? Or next to no one? How do you think the movie would have gone differently?

  • How do you think alternative families and/or members from alternative families might view this film differently to normative families and/or people from normative families?

  • Why did the deus ex machina seem to make Alice less unhappy? How do you feel about this conclusion?

  • Did the nudity in the film increase the portrayal of intimacy or only serve less noble purposes?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love family tales

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