Short Film Spotlight: IN VITRO (2015) directed by Toby Stephens

In many ways, short films can be just more effective and compelling than feature films. IN VITRO is a prime example, which marks an excellent directorial debut from British thespian Toby Stephens.

In Vitro posterI found out about its Indiegogo campaign last year and I’m glad to be one of its backers. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to the screening in London, and at present I’m still waiting for my request to interview Toby. I hope one day I could post that interview, but in the meantime, I want to spotlight his excellent work, currently available on We Are Colony.

In VITRO is only 18min long but it packs a punch. The film follows the fractured journey of a man dealing with the still-taboo subject of infertility.

In a commentary in We Are Colony, Toby “…wanted to tell the story from a male perspective because it is a largely unheard voice, but no less valid aspect on this subject, that helps reveal the moral complexities of procreation.”

Well, he certainly achieved that in this film, presenting the subject matter as it is without judging one side or the other. It’s not preachy nor did he try to push a certain agenda, but the story is definitely thought-provoking. This isn’t a topic that I think about much but it made me think about what if I were in the characters’ shoes… how would I feel? What would I have done?

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The film was written and directed by Toby Stephens himself and stars his Black Sails 2 co-star Rupert Penry-Jones, and Anna-Louise Plowman and Stephanie Leonidas. Anna-Louise happens to be Toby’s wife and both of them were also Penry-Jones’ co-stars in BBC’s miniseries Cambridge Spies back in 2003.

All the actors fit the roles nicely, with Penry-Jones skillfully carried the weight of the film. He’s a naturally likable presence, which helps as his character isn’t exactly a virtuous man. But I can’t help sympathize with his character despite his flaws.

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I like how Toby frame the story in a non-linear way, which keeps things more intriguing. The cinematography by Simon Dennis is beautiful to look at. The use of music definitely fits the tone of the film and there’s an atmospheric quality to the nighttime scenes. I’d say this is an excellent debut from Toby and he’s definitely a promising writer/director. As a phenomenal actor himself, he certainly has a vision of what he wants from the performers and it shows. I sure hope he’ll continue to make films in the future, and perhaps star in his own feature film?

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Check out the trailer, courtesy of We Are Colony:


What are your thoughts of IN VITRO?