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?



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.


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?


Check out the trailer, courtesy of We Are Colony:

What are your thoughts of IN VITRO?

14 thoughts on “Short Film Spotlight: IN VITRO (2015) directed by Toby Stephens

  1. Oh, this sounds great. I love films that deal with subjects of this sort from a male perspective, because like Toby states, the male voice is often overlooked in these scenarios since childbearing and parenthood is so commonly associated with a woman’s feelings…but there are two sides to that story. I’ve been there. My wife and I tried to have children for 2 years before we were finally blessed, and we visited fertility specialists and went through tests and considered in-vitro and so I get this story. I’ll definitely have to seek this one out.

    1. Hey thanks for checking out the post Drew! It’s quite a difficult subject to tackle but I think Toby did a smashing job presenting the story w/ sensitivity and poignancy. I hope you do check it out!

  2. A.C

    As a woman trying to concieve (after holding off trying to have kids for 3 years and both of us are in our 30′s), this film really hit me hard. Ive been struggling with constantly monitoring everything I eat, making sure to keep my eye on the calendar for all possibilities and constantly wondering and hoping for a good sign. Its emotionally and mentally exhausting and Im learning a whole new meaning of the word patience. And thats just the tip of the iceberg. I find myself so focused on all the changes that I must be ready for should I conceive that often I forget where my husband falls in all of this. As much as it is difficult for me, I can only imagine what goes through his mind every month when I have to tell him that yet again we have failed.

    I knew ahead of time that this film would be released and was delighted to finally get the chance to watch it. I’ve followed the work of Toby Stephens for awhile now and hearing that he was about to make his directorial debut covering the topic of infertility, I knew I had to watch it. Needless to say I was not dissapointed. Despite some of the actions of the husband, I found myself rather sympathetic to his plight. I found myself feeling the horror and frustration of seeing a long cherished dream falling apart with no way to stop it and the agony of feeling as if you have failed in every way possible.

    I didnt expect this film to hit me like it did and as tough as it was to watch, Im very glad I did. It has given me new perspective and I would like to thank the wonderful cast and crew for putting this together. I look forward to seeing more works from Toby Stephens in the future.

    1. Hi A.C., thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear about your ordeal in trying to have a baby, no doubt this film will resonate with you. I think it’s wonderful that Toby tackles something so personal and with such sensitivity. As someone who hasn’t dealt with this matter, I found myself identifying with the characters and sympathize with them.

      Yes I hope Toby continues to make films in the future. He certainly has the writing/directing talent and an eye for visuals as the film looks beautiful!

  3. Tom

    This sounds like something I am most definitely going to watch here in about ten minutes. 🙂 I think i can throw down $3 to watch this, and I also need to see more (some?) of Toby Stephens to get a better view of it. I don’t know if I’ve seen him in anything. . . (whoops, pretend I didn’t say that)

    1. Hi Tom! OMG you haven’t seen anything Toby’s in? You should check out The Machine, I believe I’ve mentioned that to you a while back, that’s one of the most recent film he’s been in. But of course there’s STARZ’s Black Sails which is just excellent and he’s superb as a pirate leader. In In Vitro, he’s proven to be adept behind the camera as well, and Rupert Penry-Jones is a talented yet underrated British actor.

  4. Pingback: 10 Things I Love about Twin Cities Film Fest! |

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