Lifetime’s “If I Can’t Have You” (2023) is a crime thriller TV movie that revolves around the life of a radio jockey, Michelle Hall, who gets targeted by an unknown and persistent stalker, making her fear for her safety. Directed by David DeCoteau, the film seems to be dealing with the traditional theme of a stalker-mystery, slowly escalating to murder. Although predictable at times, the plot does incorporate a few twists and a final climax that proves to be decently interesting.
Michelle, working the late shift at the Polaris Satellite Radio Channel, at first receives a call on-air from a person called ‘John Doe,’ who claims to be a fan of her program. He asks for her advice on how to win the heart of a girl that he loves but who doesn’t love him back. Assuming it to be an innocent question, Michelle suggests that he be persistent in his approach and show her his true feelings, and she plays a romantic song for him via the channel. But all her senses begin warning her when out of nowhere a red rose and an unnamed love letter turn up on her doorstep. The film stars Bailey Kai, Houston Rhines, Jackée Harry, Gina Hiraizumi, Eric Roberts, and Philip McElroy and engages in a suspenseful narrative to support its plot.
‘If I Can’t Have You’ Story: The Obscure Admirer
Michelle Hall is a radio jockey who hosts a popular late-night radio program called “Heart of the Night,” where she takes calls from strangers and gives advice regarding their love-related problems. On one such night, she receives a call from a man who calls himself ‘John Doe,’ who is seeking advice on how he could win over a girl who didn’t return his love. The next day, Michelle receives a rose and an anonymous love letter, which makes her suspicious.
At first, she suspects her next-door neighbor, Mr. Sklar, whom she once caught staring at her through the blinds of his window, was behind the creepy calls and the rose on her doorstep. Stressed out from her work and weighed down by the fear for her own safety, Michelle returns home to her boyfriend, Aiden, who is disappointed by her recent lack of energy when she is around him. Meanwhile, Lily, her co-host, informs her that the caller had contacted the station about twenty times after she had left, asking for her personal phone number, and kept on persisting even after he was denied, leaving her a final message stating that he would be watching her, and Michelle receives another anonymous letter stuck to her car, which frightens her.
One morning, when she returns from the station and enters her bedroom, she finds all her pictures mutilated and her boyfriend’s face scratched off with a sharp object. Left with no other choice, Michelle finally goes to the police, accompanied by Aiden, and confesses her fears that someone may be stalking her. But the officer-in-charge, Detective Olsen, keeps grueling her about the details of her house and how she found things at the time that she came home. Frustrated by the line of questioning, Aiden speaks up, asking the detective what could actually be done to stop this malicious stalker, to which she does not provide a satisfactory answer.
Meanwhile, Michelle and Lily get their station tech, Keith, to hack into coffee shop footage, where the caller had arranged for “If I Can’t Have You” to be played when they were there, and obtain proof of Mr. Sklar’s presence, as Keith had seen a car with a license plate matching that of Sklar’s in the driveway of the shop. Aiden proposes marriage to Michelle to be able to protect her, but she refuses, leaving Aiden even more frustrated and wanting to take out his pent-up anger on Mr. Sklar. He tells Michelle and Lily while they are watching Sklar’s house that he should go across the street and teach him a lesson or they should immediately call the cops, but they advise against it, fearing that if Mr. Sklar was, in fact, the stalker, he would be set free when the police found out that the evidence was obtained through illegal means.
‘If I Can’t Have You’ Ending: The Stalker Is Revealed
While on watch, Michelle and Lily notice Aiden secretly moving towards Sklar’s house and knowing what he was going to do, Michelle calls out to him and asks him to return to their house. But Michelle wanted to investigate Sklar herself; hence, she arranged to break into his house with Lily and Keith. The film reaches its climax when Michelle finds Mr. Sklar strangled inside his house, and she is arrested. The police informed her that he had been dead for a week, resolving Michelle’s suspicions about him. The police detective, having begun her investigation, consults with a colleague about their next move in the case. But, as the film reaches a second climax, it is too little, too late. Michelle returns home to find her bed adorned with rose petals.
Terrified, she calls out for Aiden, and her calls are answered as Aiden enters the bedroom with a voice-changing device, admitting that it was him all along. He states that Michelle had put everything before him and that she did not actually care for him. When Michelle, shocked at the turn of events, admits that she loved him, he denies it, calling her a liar. It is revealed that he had tried to pin the whole thing on the ‘creepy’ neighbor, Mr. Sklar, and had killed him to avoid being found out. As the horrified Michelle attempts to escape, Aiden grabs her and tries to strangle her, but Lily enters just in time to save her, hitting Aiden on the head with a baseball bat and knocking him unconscious. She assures Michelle that the police are on their way and tells her that Keith had seen Aiden’s face on the surveillance footage of the coffee shop as he was driving Mr. Sklar’s car to make it look like he was stalking her, and hence she knew her life was in danger. The film ends with a scene showing Aiden in jail, digging a cell phone out of the ground. He calls the radio station during Michelle’s program and thanks her, sending a chill down her spine and perhaps the audience’s too.