The One I Love (2014)

23 May

Guest-Cottage-from-The-One-I-Love-movie-15.jpg

Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!!…When Charlie McDowell’s “The One I Love” was released in 2014, reviewers were afraid to go beyond the first scene of the film, lest they risk talking about…the story.

Doesn’t really make sense to me, but I’ll be kind and issue a “SPOILER” alert.

(To be fair, even the film’s trailer is surprisingly very vague about what happens after the 10-minute mark.)

Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elizabeth Moss) are in a marriage rut, for which they take counseling. Why? You name it—they have trouble communicating with each other, he cheated on her, they don’t share that same spark anymore, etc. It’s a variety of reasons. Even when they try to recapture the spontaneity of the past, it doesn’t work. (Sneaking into a neighbor’s pool surprisingly isn’t very risk-taking anymore.) Their marriage counselor (Ted Danson, stepfather of director Charlie McDowell) recommends a weekend retreat where he sends most of his couples who just need to get away together for a little while. He assures them that each of them comes back refreshed and renewed. Ethan and Sophie agree to it, because why not? So, they’re set up alone at a big remote property, a big house with a pool and a guest house…what they find inside that guest house is where things get particularly interesting…

OK, here goes—each time either Ethan or Sophie sets foot into the guest house, one encounters a different version of the other. Sophie goes into the house, Ethan’s hair is slightly messy, he’s more charming and charismatic, and he doesn’t even have his glasses. And with Ethan, Sophie is more of a Stepford wife—eager to please, even preparing bacon for breakfast (something the real Sophie hates). When they (their real selves) become aware of what’s happening, their initial reaction is to flee. But then when they sit and talk about it, they decide they want to try it out a little longer. In spending time with different versions of their significant other, they also lay down some ground rules for each other…which I’M SURE WILL BE FOLLOWED.

Remember “Ruby Sparks,” the brilliant romantic comedy-drama that stated the difference between falling in love with a person and falling in love with an idea of that person? “The One I Love” sort of takes that concept a step further, by having Sophie literally fall in love with the man she thought she loved before, while Ethan is actually willing to work things out with himself and the woman he knows he loves…or does he actually love her…or does he just love the idea of her…? The Sophie that generates around him inside the guest house is more like a trophy wife than a real person, so what does that say about his romantic desires? Whatever this situation is, it’s apparently based on how people in couples see each other and uses that to appeal to their wants/needs in a relationship. Where it goes from there is left to question, especially for Ethan, who grows more concerned about how far Sophie’s willing to take her little “fling.”

I mentioned “Ruby Sparks,” which took an out-of-nowhere, eye-opening dark turn to teach the protagonist a lesson about the woman he wanted to be someone different from herself. “The One I Love” has a consistent dark tone all throughout—much of that has to do with cinematographer Doug Emmett’s shadowy shots, the overall layout of this property, and the director’s ability to make the couple’s problems and their attempts to solve them seem odd and eerie, almost like a Hitchcock setup. And the disturbing situation gets more and more uncomfortable, the more they experiment with it, as it seems there is one potential outcome for this couple—one version of either Ethan or Sophie has to stay while the other goes…but who stays with the other and who goes with the other?

The screenwriter, Justin Lader, makes the bold, smart choice of explaining very little. No one, not even the marriage counselor, comes along to give an expository speech about why this is or why that is. In the end, so much is left open to interpretation, which is the best move—any explanation wouldn’t have satisfied me. It’s just a fun, strange concept that’s played around with as numerous possibilities are taken advantage of, and I was intrigued all the way through “The One I Love.” And the ending, I think, is brilliant and provokes questions as to what the right choice is/was, how does one live with what’s happened, how do you deal with what’s happening around you, and…who IS the one you love?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: