The title for The One I Love can throw you off completely. You’re reading the title right now and thinking, “well, it’s about the one s/he loves. What’s so misleading about that?” And that’s just it. It’s about love, but the story is not your typical love story. Far from it, in fact. And this is exactly what director Charlie McDowell has in mind from the very start of the film, through the twisted maze that is the middle, and the ending that leaves you hanging and wanting more, which very much means that McDowell has done his job right. The One I Love is a unique, twisted, and bold piece about love, ideals, expectations, and trust that will leave you with interesting questions at the end.
Sophie (Elizabeth Moss) and Ethan (Mark Duplass) are going through marital counseling. We don’t know how long they’ve been married, all we know is they’ve been married long enough that Ethan has betrayed Sophie’s trust and they’re trying to get back the spark that they’ve lost. So visiting their therapist (Ted Danson), he suggests they go away to a tranquil house away from their lives and other people to take time to reconnect. So they do. And the first couple of days they’re both doing well enough before their relationship takes an interesting turn. One they never saw coming.
Seeing as how only Elizabeth Moss and Mark Duplass are the only ones in this film, there are definite feelings of isolation surrounding the film, as well as a bizarre sense of amusement and creepy feeling all happening at once. Behind the simplicity of the summary above lies a heavier dialogue about trust issues in a relationship, trying to recreate the magic from the past, and how one’s ideals can obscure the person you’re actually with. McDowell plays on all these factors really well, and while there’s some ambiguity and lack of expansion of some of the plot points leading up to the end, it only serves to make the story more compelling and most certainly more intriguing.
Elizabeth Moss and Mark Duplass certainly fill their characters’ shoes very well. Their relationship, though rocky, is very open at the beginning of their trip. Slowly, but surely, you see some of that progress quickly fade away as one tries to move forward with something and the other tries to recapture the past in order to stay in the present and have a possible future. They’re both different and want different things and you can see that right away from the way they interact with each other and the things that the other wants. The two actors have a believable chemistry and their scenes together only grow with intrigue as the movie progresses. They are both able to carry the movie without upstaging the other.
There are so many layers to explore in this film that a second viewing is most definitely a must after the ending. To simply call this film another attempt at a romantic dramedy would be doing it a disservice. It’s a twisted tale of love and isn’t exactly what one expects it to be. The One I Love is certainly one of the most intriguing and original films of the year and although one character’s wants and needs is more explored than the other, McDowell uses his actors and the story to create a world that is filled with mystery, ambiguity, honest interactions, and questions about love and relationships in an entirely new way.