The title of Tamara Jenkins’ new Netflix drama about a married couple struggling with infertility, Private Life, is ironically cruel. After all, there’s nothing private about the emotional and physical hell these two are going through: Everyone has an opinion or a tone-deaf nugget of advice about their uphill reproductive odyssey. Not only is Mother Nature working against them, the whole world seems to be.
Jenkins, the Oscar-nominated writer-director of 2007’s The Savages, nails the smallest, most minute details of the IVF process with a jeweler’s precision: the hormone shots and egg retrievals, the financial strains and fights, the hope and despair. I realize that probably makes this exquisite film sound clinical and slightly depressing. And aside from a few laughs when you need them most, it does have some rough moments. But thankfully, it also has Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti, who aren’t just convincing as married New York artists who’d give anything for a child; they also subtly convey the love buried beneath all their bickering and resentment.
Hope finally arrives in the form of the couple’s college-dropout niece (a radiant Kayli Carter), who moves in and offers to donate some of her eggs. But Jenkins isn’t interested in last-minute miracles or Hail Mary Hollywood happy endings. Private Life is both smaller and bigger than that. It’s about perseverance, compassion, and empathy. A-