Don’t let the title fool you, The One I Love begins with a marriage in crisis.
The film opens with Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) in the midst of an intense session of couples therapy. The two of them realize that there marriage is failing because at this point, they are just trying to force love. And, as Phil Collins probably once said, you can’t force love.
Ethan and Sophie attempt to recreate an old spark, only to find that the spark is no longer there. In order to save their marriage, their therapist (Ted Danson) suggests that they rent a house in the country (which looks a lot like Malibu). They take his advice and after a few glasses of wine, a joint, and some lens flares, the two find themselves connecting once again. That is, until something very weird happens. And then a few even weirder instances occur.
I find myself having trouble talking about The One I Love without spoiling anything. Most films save their big twists for later on. In The One I Love, the twist happens about 15 minutes into the story. I might have already said too much.
I am going to paint this film in as broad of strokes as possible, because I want everybody to see it. However, that is not exactly a recommendation. The One I Love is scrappy and a little out there, but it attempts to execute something that few others have tried before. An executive would probably pitch it as “The Twilight Zone meets a romantic comedy.”
The One I Love is the feature film debut for director Charlie McDowell and writer Justin Lader. It is an impressive looking first feature, and I look forward to seeing what they accomplish in the future. They are lucky enough to have Duplass and Moss on board, who give their most challenging performances to date. Their chemistry is amazing when it is supposed to be.
I appreciate everything The One I Love did. It is entertaining, ambitious, and it ends in a Mamas & The Papas song. But like Under the Skin before it, I admired it more than I loved it. However, with flashes of occasional brilliance, I would definitely watch it again.