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Series Review: All Our Eggs

6 July 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1054

Letter to a bunch of cells:

There is a tsunami of love waiting for you out there. Hope you're comfy in there. I want you to know this uterus has never been used by the likes of you. You're the first. You should feel very, very special.

P.S. Please hold on tight.

Love Mum xx

The depiction of fertility treatment in film and TV hasn't been known for its faithful portrayal of infertility, often showing an idealised narrative of hope and triumph against adversity, while the reality has been confined instead to whispered conversations in anonymous infertility forums. In recent years, that's started to change, as films like Private Life and Only You have begun to offer a raw and honest picture of what it's really like to go through something so life-changing and life-defining.

However, All Our Eggs takes this to another level: it doesn't just show the emotional rollercoaster of infertility, but takes the viewer in the actual car to experience 'the Great Big Fertility Ride' as close to first hand as possible. The story follows Charlie (Adrienne Pickering) and her husband Jack (Matt Zeremes) as they experience the hope and hopelessness, the worry and the pain of desperately wanting to have a baby, but being unable to, in a completely new and unique way.

Based on Legs up and Laughing, an IVF memoir by Australian playwright Vanessa Bates, All Our Eggs is a micro-series of 45-90 -second episodes delivered through Instagram, TikTok and YouTube throughout 2020, portraying a five-year infertility journey in a flick book of moments. It wasn't originally intended to be a social media show, but a torturous development process and budget cuts necessitated a change of direction. However, having landed on a format that breaks new ground in storytelling - with the first TikTok clip attracting over two million views - I rather suspect the end result is far more interesting as a consequence.

Director Martha Goddard combines dark humour and 'Fleabag'-style turns to camera with devastating poignancy, as so many of the doubts and fears that Charlie shares vividly convey the fervent hope, disappointment and heartbreak of infertility with searing accuracy. Yet some of the most powerful moments happen off-camera. The night before Charlie takes a pregnancy test to find out the outcome of their first IVF cycle, she writes the above 'letter to a bunch of cells' - her innermost thoughts and feelings laid bare not on-screen, but through the brutal simplicity of images and text in an Instagram post. A post that was actually published the night before the episode where Charlie takes this test was released, allowing us to live her story alongside her, in real time. What could have easily been a clunky gimmick works so beautifully because it's not just content slapped on social media, but a participatory experience that invites the viewer to contribute to this immersive story by sharing their own experiences of infertility with the team, in order to shape future material. It's not just Charlie's story - it's everyone's story.

The micro-content means we only glimpse brief snapshots of Charlie and Jack's journey, leaving the audience to fill in large gaps. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of small, telling moments that will be only too familiar to anyone who's struggled to conceive (such as Charlie's obsession over the consistency of her cervical fluid and Jack's abject horror at being told to 'fill up' a disturbingly large sample pot when visiting the clinic for a semen analysis), stringing these snippets together may challenge viewers who've not had personal experience of infertility - but I think that's part of its power.

I'd urge anyone who's going through, or has been through, their own infertility journey to watch, read and participate in All Our Eggs - it'll help you feel less alone. Also, I feel it would be of interest to anyone who works in the fertility sector, as a visceral insight into the patient perspective of fertility investigations and treatment. Lastly, I do believe this series would be interesting to everyone, because I guarantee you'll know a friend, family member or colleague who has been or will go through something similar, and a greater understanding of what it means to suffer fertility problems will make a huge difference to building a more empathic culture around infertility.

All Our Eggs
You Tube |  10 May 2020
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