A Comedy About Infertility? Not Really.
Back in January 2018, I wrote a post announcing the production of Private Life, a Netflix movie that purported to take an honest look at how couples can be stressed and consumed by infertility and the resulting quest for a baby. Not the first movie on the subject, for sure, but this one stars actor Paul Giamatti, and he's a personal favorite. (Catch him in Billions on Showtime or Hulu. Enough said.)
Private Life started streaming in October. Its producers have described it as a comedy, but other than a few laughs or eyebrow raises, the story progressed slowly, and was more melancholy than funny. Perhaps that was the intent.
Giamatti is Paul, a 47-year-old theater owner and a husband with a testicular problem.. Kathryn Hahn plays his writer wife, Rachel, They live in New York City's East Village, and that hoary Woody Allen-like set-up was wearying to me from the start.
What this movie does well is present the real-life agonies of adults who have experienced failed adoption, failed IVF, or failed surrogacy and keep on trying to conceive a child of their own. Paul and Rachel suffer through all of these situations and more. Hormone shots, insensitive physicians and nurses, painful tests and the hours lost in the same waiting rooms again and again and always, neighbors and friends announcing pregnancies or their baby's latest accomplishments.
Critical reviews have been good, including this from The New York Times: "The comedy, like the pathos, comes from recognition, and not in a narrowly sociological sense. These are just people, after all."
Women who are childfree by choice will probably avoid watching Private Life, but they shouldn't. Neither should Moms who found it easy to conceive or quick solutions to their infertility. This movie, much like our NotMom Summits, forces viewers/participants to view their opposite sisters' lives with compassion, not sneering incomprehension. As a childless-by-chance NotMom, I learned a great deal about what is required when a woman refuses to accept her childlessness.
With acceptance or without, it's a tough ride. As I wrote in January, I just can't wrap my head around a "comedy" about infertility, a condition that is ultimately rarely private.