The One I Love is a marvel of the modern age, precisely because of one thing: its trailer. This movie’s trailer reveals next to nothing about what the film’s actual premise is; that’s a damn wonder and a welcome one at that. That’s primarily because the film’s major twist is so central to the wonder and enjoyment that this film has to offer that to spoil it would sabotage the whole film. Unfortunately, that makes writing about the film extremely difficult, because it’s really hard to talk around the central premise of a film when attempting to review it.
What I can tell you is that the story begins with Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss) at couple’s therapy, demonstrating just how out-of-sync they are and the problems they face as a couple. Their therapist recommends that they go to a retreat home out in the middle of nowhere and… that’s all I can say specifically. What I will say is that the film starts to analyze the workings of Ethan and Sophie’s relationship, and the trials they face will either cause them to come out stronger or be torn apart. Both Duplass and Moss give great performances, effectively conveying a wide emotional range that is necessary for this script. Moss in particular is fantastic at shifting from chipper to deadly serious at the drop of a hat, so her casting couldn’t have been more perfect.
And now I must explain the film’s primary flaw in the most circuitous way possible. See, the film starts off with a clear direction of exploring the dysfunction of the two leads, and would effectively work as an engrossing character study… if the film had bothered to stay on that course. However, instead of focusing on the characters, by the third act the film is focusing on the logistics of the strange events that have taken over their lives. But the mystery of these events is not what makes the narrative interesting; sometimes films are structured with the assumption that weird things happen, because that’s what drives a story forward, but The One I Love seems to miss the forest for the trees and is content to explore its own uninteresting (and ultimately unresolved) lore.
That’s a paragraph that I assure you makes sense more when you see the film, and I do recommend this film, if only for the sense of mystery it evokes and the great character performances by Duplass and Moss. It’s a film where the ride is more fun than the conclusion, where a sly game of hide the ball ultimately reveals that there is no ball, but damn was it fun to guess where it was. Give this one a rental if only to see what the big mystery is all about.