Movie Review: “The One I Love” – Like Doing Acid Off A Mirror

Written by Spencer Sterritt November 09, 2014

The One I Love, Mark Duplass, Elizabeth Moss

“The One I Love,” out now on Netflix, ends absolutely nowhere close to where it began. What starts at a tale of slowly drifting couple Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elizabeth Moss) becomes a pleasantly twisted, sci-fi tinged low key tale about what people realistically want in a marriage.

It all starts when Ethan and Sophie’s couples counselor (Ted Danson) sends them off for a weekend retreat to a lovely Martha Stewart-esque villa with a guest house. Everyone who goes there comes back “renewed” according to Ted, though he’s vague about why. So far so low key and quaint, but after Sophie’s first venture into the guest house, everything changes. What changes, and how it affects the two of them, is the most interesting and refreshing part of the movie, so it would be a shame to spoil virtually anything here.

“I’ll be right here.”

You can tell that “The One I Love” was written by newcomers by how strictly it adheres to the three act structure. By the 20 minute mark Sophie and Ethan have both found out about the guest house, and what happens when only one of them is inside, and by the hour mark everything they thought they knew about the place is upended. It’s not a flaw, but it does remove some of the charm to see the blatant framework of the film.

Mark Duplass, The One I Love

“The One I Love” is charming, whimsical, and surprisingly dark but it does lose some of that in the final act. The first two acts feel like something out of a short story, where the why and the how are less important than the what. If screenwriter Justin Lader had left the guest house as simply that place where weird stuff happens, “The One I Love” would have time to really dig deep into what is driving Sophie and Ethan, and what is driving their marriage apart. Instead he opts to explain just a little bit of what is happening, and it isn’t enough. The film strikes a weird line between explaining too much and answering too little, and the emotional resonance of the third act is lost to questions about why and how Ted Danson has left this trap for them, and for many others.

“Something fucking weird like Twilight Zone shit is happening here!”

Outside of those quibbles however, “The One I Love” is a fantastic and smart film with an interesting thesis about why people stay together. Director Charlie McDowell, Ted Danson’s stepson, has a strong directorial eye; though most of the action takes place within the guest house and the main house shots and scenes don’t feel repetitive or non-essential. He’s also very keen on how to drop subtle background hints as to what’s going on, especially by throwing just a little bit of shadow on specific parts of the guest house.

Elizabeth Moss, The One I Love

The real stars are Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss though. Ted Danson’s role is mostly a cameo, leaving the rest of the movie to fall on their shoulders. After years on “Mad Men” Elizabeth Moss has the disenfranchised and bored mid-30 something down to a science, but she’s very carefully and skilled at showing new glimpses of her character that you didn’t expect. Mark Duplass turns in a performance more in line with “Safety Not Guarenteed” than “The League,” but it seems to be his preferred type because he’s perfect here. Much is unsaid in “The One I Love” but both Duplass and Moss make you understand the connection that these two have.

“It’s just a weird thing.” “It is weird.”

For a movie so wrapped up in its initial premise it’s a shame “The One I Love” can’t find a solid tone in the last act. And the last scene, though poignant and appropriate, is easily guessed at the beginning of the third act when stuff starts getting real weird. Still, a movie like this thrives on it’s characters more than it’s plot, and on that front “The One I Love” more than delivers.

My Rating: 7.5/10

The One I Love, MArk Duplass, Elizabeth Moss

 

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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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