By Adam Sturrock
The One I Love (2014)
Director: Charlie McDowell
Writer: Justin Lader
Cast: Mark Duplass, Elizabeth Moss, Ted Danson
Ethan (Duplass) and Sophie (Moss) are stuck in a marital rut, an endless loop of uncomfortable glances and failed attempts at re-kindling a flame. With that in mind, they try marriage counseling; out of desperation rather than scant hope. The hope for something new is wearing them down and their councillor, (played by Ted Danson) suggests that they head out, alone, for a weekend retreat with the promise of being “renewed” as a couple.
Where the couple arrives is picturesque. A compact but intricately designed summer house with a swimming pool, garden and a hidden guest house; and that is where things truly get interesting.
“The One I Love” is about taking things that are mundane and turning them into something that is bizarre. Charlie condenses the crew and the locations so that they become claustrophobic; you can’t avoid the characters wherever they may go, the camera shots are placed at odd angles and outside of the beautifully manicured garden walls and the pristine house in which they live, we see nothing. There is something off about most of the scenes, the way the score creeps back and forth puts you into a state of unease; it doesn’t feel like a romantic comedy at all. Their happiness seems to be a creepy facade smothered onto their faces, but the performances from the small cast featuring Moss and Duplass demand your attention.
A real chemistry has been cultivated here. Not of extreme passion, but of worn down experience. Without signposting it that much, they seem aware of each other’s ticks and are peeved off by them, as if it’s the 50th time they’ve seen it. The script, while at times is flawed by constant recycled dialogue, slowly unfurls their relationship until their flaws are exposed. The film has subtle flashes of humor as well, with at one point, Ethan suggesting that he was expected “horseback riding with a satchel of wine” instead of the mind-bending “Twilight Zone” scenarios that they encountered.
Without dealing with any of the main plot points of the film, like a machine, once it starts, the pacing continues at a relentless pace, but arguably, fails to fully explore its established premise later on.
A smart, paranoid twist on the, at times, bored Rom-Com formula, Charlie McDowell makes a big impression on his directorial debut.
What did you think of the film? Let us know in the comment section below!