The One I Love Review

Posted: December 17, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

The-One-I-Love-408x586Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

In the last few years, indie cinema has been continuously dominated by a collection of young hipster types both behind the camera and in front of it. People like Joe Swanberg, Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Lynn Shelton, Aaron Katz, and Andrew Bujalski have made a pretty decent career, making fairly bland films about upper-middle class young people and their minimal problems. At a glance, The One I Love, looks like just another film of the mumblecore movement. It’s the amateur effort of a director who looks to fit the bill of a young white hipster, it revolves around a young couple’s marriage difficulties, and it even stars Mark Duplass. However there is a high concept at play in The One I Love that makes the film a bit more ambitious than it seems.

Ethan and Sophie (Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss) are a young couple who have hit a snag in their marriage. Initially, quite happy, the two are eager to rekindle the spark between them and are seeing a couple’s therapist (Ted Danson). The therapist recommends the two visit a vacation home for a long weekend to help rejuvenate their love. They go, and sure enough they begin to have a great time but they begin to notice strange things in the guest house in the backyard. If only one of them enters, they find someone who looks at sounds exactly like their significant other, though they are a more ideal version. This is not their actual partner though, and while the two are initially scared by what they’re experiencing, they find themselves drawn to this strange occurrence.

The One I Love starts out strongly enough. The characters and their problems are not mind blowing, but strong performances from Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss make these characters likable and you do want to see them succeed. However the film becomes a lot more interesting when the high concept is introduced. It’s a strong premise, and raises some interesting questions regarding the nature of relationships. Should one accept there significant other’s flaws, or should they always push their spouse to be the best version of themselves they can be? What does it mean to be one’s “best self”? Does such a concept really exist? Where are the lines drawn? It’s a really interesting line of thought that I haven’t really seen explored in this way. Despite the strengths of these scenes, the movie is letdown somewhat by some subpar writing. There are too many dialogue exchanges which essentially repeat the same points over and the film begins to go in circles. I also find Sophie is too quick to begin to fall for the other version of Ethan, given they’re only there for a few days.

On a technical level, The One I Love is a mixed effort. Visually, it’s efficiently put together and I never got bored of the limited location. The cinematography is bland, and mostly blends with every other indie drama that’s come out recently, but it is serviceable. More problematic is the score, which is awful. While the film’s concepts are bizarre and somewhat unsettling, the overbearing score oozes quirky melodrama. Not only does it not fit the tone, but it’s so obnoxious that it almost dominates the scenes. Thankfully, the strong performances from Duplass and Moss help offset some technical hiccups, but they still distract, and I can’t say director Charlie McDowell shows much promise as a filmmaker.

Despite some flaws, I did enjoy the first two acts, but things do begin to slip in the third. While initially the film’s more supernatural elements seemed more about representing thematic ideas, they begin to take on a more literary meaning in the third act and the ideas begin to be brushed aside. I was never really interested in why the guest house was producing doubles so much as I was the concepts that represented. Still, the shift might have worked had the film’s exploration of the truth been interesting, but it feels half-baked and isn’t really explored that much anyway. At this point, the film becomes more conventionally plot driven before building to a predictable ambiguous twist at the end.

It’s disappointing to see an inventive premise go so adrift in the end. And really, the film was very problematic from the start. Still, I wouldn’t say The One I Love is a bad film at all. It’s a misfire, but an interesting one that does provide some food for thought, and is also bolstered by two very strong lead performances. It isn’t the kind of thing anyone needs to rush out and see, but if you’re looking for something different to check out on Netflix, this is a decent enough choice.


  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Dan. The perfect movie to go into knowing absolutely nothing about it. Other than who it stars and what the general-basis of its premise may be. Everything else is left to be seen and surprised by.

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