A husband and wife (Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss) struggling in their relationship visit a retreat on the advice of their therapist (Ted Danson)—and they make a startling discovery in one of the guest houses.
That discovery in The One I Love is beautifully clever—and plays like something from a really cool Twilight Zone episode.
Ethan and Sophie are bombing in therapy, and the therapist is not amused. He has the couple strike keys on a piano as a test of their compatibility. He asks them age-old questions, like, “Say, are you two having sex?” When it appears there’s nothing he can do to help, he hands the couple a pamphlet for a place that has worked wonders for some of his past patients.
As a last-ditch effort, the two head for the resort, where they find immediate comfort. They’ve escaped their surroundings, and can crack open a bottle of wine and try to unwind. It’s nothing that resembles a breakthrough, though, so it appears as if Ethan and Sophie might be going through the motions.
Then … the strange thing happens.
This strange thing is the basis of the whole movie, and I would be a major dickweed if I were to reveal the exact details. So, yes, I’m going to attempt to get through the rest of this review without giving away the big twist, which fuels the whole movie. The big twist propels the film into becoming one of the better romantic comedies in years—one with a big brain and strong insight. Calling The One I Love a “romantic comedy” is almost an insult, but it has romance and it is funny, so I suppose it falls into that particular genre.
Charlie McDowell has made an impressive directorial debut, utilizing a solid, brutally honest script from Justin Lader. The movie is about seeing your inner potential fully realized, and the ability to solve mutual emotional problems with self-sacrifice and compromise. It’s also about the healing powers of bacon.
Duplass is making a name for himself as an understated, offbeat romantic-comedy lead. (He starred in another great recent romantic comedy, Safety Not Guaranteed.) Ethan starts off as a sort of undercover douchebag—a mild-mannered guy who has allowed his insecurities to overtake him while committing egregious relationship errors. He’s generally unlikable, and Duplass makes Ethan’s transition seem very realistic.
Moss (best known for starring on Mad Men) has had a movie career spanning two decades, but The One I Love makes it feel like she’s just arriving. She has an arsenal of “looks” in this movie that will make many men shrink in their seats. She successfully taps into both the sinister and sweet sides of Sophie, making Sophie perhaps the most memorable character of Moss’ movie career.
I hope I’ve aroused your curiosity, because The One I Love is the sort of movie many folks in a humdrum relationship—as well as those who are single—should take the time to watch. It’s also a chance to see two performers fully embracing their illuminating characters. Prepare to laugh—but also prepare for some post-movie headaches, because your forehead is going to endure some “I should’ve done that!” palm smacks.
The One I Love is now available via video on demand and online sources, including iTunes and Amazon.com.