Film Spotlight: The One I Love (2014)
Director: Charlie McDowell
Cast: Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, Ted Danson
Rated R for language, some sexuality, and drug use.
It’s pretty safe to say that most people enjoy watching movies, right? Still, no matter how big of a film buff you are, there might still be a film here or there that kind of slips through the cracks. This new bi-weekly column will help some of you discover films that you may have missed. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t one of those pretentious “FILMS THAT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF” things that just assumes that nobody but the author knows about certain films. Instead, this is a “if you missed this, you might want to look into it” kind of thing. From one film fan to another.
The One I Love is kind of a difficult film to talk about without spoiling anything. Some people might argue that I’m overly sensitive to spoilers, but I love the experience of watching a film knowing next to nothing about it. The One I Love was one of those films for me. Going in, I’d heard that it was really good and that it’s about a couple going to a cabin, and that’s about it. Believe me when I say that this is definitely one of those films I was incredibly happy to see without knowing anything about what was to come, because I never would have predicted the direction it would go in. You might look at the cover of the film or read the title, and think that it’s an ordinary rom-com, but trust me…there’s nothing ordinary about this film. On that note, if you have any inclination towards watching a strange little indie movie featuring two magnificent actors and a lot of weird humor, stop reading this now and just go watch the movie. For the rest of you, I’m going to still try and be as vague as possible, but let me explain what’s so great about this film.
Like I already said, The One I Love is a weird film. At the beginning, we meet a couple, Ethan and Sophie (played by Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss), who are going through some relationship difficulties. Their therapist, played by Ted Danson, recommends that they go to a certain secluded cottage he has up in the hills. It’s a place that has worked wonders for many other couples in the past. Having nothing to lose, Ethan and Sophie head out for the cottage. It doesn’t take long for the cottage to start rekindling their flames for each other, helping them realize why they fell in love with each other in the first place.
So far so been-there-done-that, but there’s a twist to this situation that, despite being revealed relatively early in the film, would be a shame to give up here. Again, I’m trying to be as vague as possible, because I had a definite sense of joy discovering the mysteries of this story. Yet what makes this film even more interesting than a regular twist-laden film, is that it does not rely on the twist as a shocking finale. Many other films might stretch the initial mystery as far as possible, long past the point where most people have already figured it out, before then revealing the twist in a series of dramatic flashbacks. The One I Love, on the other hand, does not insult your intelligence like that. Instead, it uses the twist to serve its story, and a lot of the joy of the film comes from then watching how Ethan and Sophie start to deal with this suddenly unusual situation, and what it does to them as a couple. Best of all, the twist is not even the driving force of the movie. The motivations of the characters are what push the movie forward, while the twist simply acts as something for the couple to then play off on. So while a lot of films might end with a twist, this film takes the twist and then explores it, mining it for not only dramatic effect, but comedy gold too.
Speaking of the two, both Duplass and Moss are on absolutely stellar form here. Moss you might recognize from TV shows like Mad Men or Top of the Lake, while Duplass is especially well-known in the indie fim circle, having helped originate the mumblecore genre. Their roles require them to portray an extensive variety of characteristics, giving them a chance to show their range, but they also manage to make both characters feel like fully-rounded individuals. Both are so inherently likeable and, for lack of a better word, human, that it becomes difficult to truly side with either one. That being said, the chemistry between the two is so good, that you’ll most likely be rooting for them to work out their differences anyway.
As I said at the beginning, it’s difficult to talk about this film without spoiling it, but it’s a film that I nevertheless wanted to talk about, because it doesn’t seem to be particularly well-known outside of the US, yet is definitely worthy of your attention. If you like funny and strange films (perhaps in the vein of a more toned down Groundhog’s Day), and films that really let you bask in a performance (like Birdman), I strongly recommend that you watch this as soon as possible. Again, don’t read about it anymore than you absolutely have to! Go in fresh and enjoy an experience that’ll leave you guessing throughout.