Tragedy strikes Eduard in If I Hadn't Met You. After bickering over which vehicle to take, his wife and children are killed in a car accident. Suicidal and guilt-ridden, he hangs off a bridge overlooking train tracks but just as he starts to let go he is rescued by an old woman, the mysterious Dr. Everest. In her otherworldly lab she gives him a device that penetrates his wrist and glows with two buttons under his skin. One button will take him to whatever alternative universe houses the key moment he holds in his mind. The other returns him.
This is about as far as the sci-fi goes as this Spanish show is light on the ‘how’ altogether, instead using the majority of its run time to allow Eduard (Pablo Derqui) to explore the key moments of his life and their consequences, past and future. So far so good. But Eduard’s very believable pain leads to some very unbelievable issues in the show’s logic.
His initial desperation to stop the car accident that killed his family is understandably raw and urgent. But once that alternative is played out (still tragically) he continues to jump headfirst into other universes willy nilly with his reasons for doing so getting more and more hazy. Frequently Eduard will appear in a parallel world, immediately meddle to achieve the ‘change’ he wants, and then just hang around to watch.
Sticking around makes sense from a viewer point of view – we want to see what happens. But whilst the drama comes from him interacting with other versions of his family and friends, it beggars belief that Eduard would spend days hanging around and causing more changes by his mere presence. The script has tons of great dialogue and situations to explore, but really struggles to find ways to stitch them all together convincingly. More than once you will ask yourself ‘what is Eduard’s motivation’?
This also leads to another script convenience. Time passes at different speeds in different worlds. On one occasion Eduard spends three days away only to learn on his return that seven months have passed. The ‘prime’ universe is sadly given short shrift throughout. Whole episodes take place in other universes and returning home is treated as a chance to merely top up drama with arguments and confusion.
When we spend 10 episodes getting to know and love all these characters from each slightly different angle, it is disappointing that there is no satisfactory conclusion to their ‘original’ versions. Even when the final episode deconstructs previously toyed with mysteries, it simultaneously utterly jettisons the other characters as mere window dressing for Eduard, which is a shame.
If I Hadn’t Met You is a show that frustrated me endlessly because despite some serious flaws it is undoubtedly superb at something most shows of this ilk fail at – characterisation. Eduard’s emotional state is the beating heart of the show, but the surrounding cast is also all rich and engaging. By going through a full relationship from meet-cute, first kiss, pregnancy, and marriage Eduard and Elisa’s relationship is imbued with a star-crossed lovers’ poignancy that carries the narrative over most logical pitfalls.
Elisa is at turns defiant, sweet, vulnerable, and passionate thanks to an emotionally raw performance from Andrea Ros. However, some of the most emotional scenes come from conversations between Eduard talking to an alternative universe version of his father who hasn’t (yet) died from avoidable heart problems. And scenes with Eduard and the mysterious Dr. Everest herself go from confused, combative, pleading, through to genuine love and warmth.
A cynic would argue that the show is heavy of the schmaltz but I can honestly say it had me in tears multiple times. I found myself hopelessly engrossed in the lives of these characters and that is a credit to the acting and the direction. Slow bass beats underpin the high tension moments but the love is accentuated by warm hues and a recurring love song motif that squeezes the heart just right.
Your enjoyment of If I Hadn’t Met You will rely on your ability to forgive the strains the script makes to keep its concept going. Yes, Eduard should just leave. Yes, the universe hopping device that is entwined under the skin of his forearm bizarrely seems able to ‘fall off’ when the show wants to leave him stranded for dramatic impetus. Such contrivances are almost show-breaking for their head-scratching frequency. But spending time deconstructing Eduard’s life and the turns it took is endlessly engaging and ultimately worthwhile. As Eduard admits to Dr. Everest early on, “All good things are addictive.”
Words by Michael Record