The One I Love, which follows a troubled husband and wife on a getaway weekend, is a bit of a shape-shifter, going from domestic drama familiarity to science-fiction territory. Yet the more “inventive” the movie gets, the less interesting it becomes.
Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass star as Sophie and Ethan, a young couple looking to “reset the reset button” after counseling has gotten them nowhere. Their therapist (a blithe Ted Danson) sends them to spend the weekend at a secluded, country estate, where the peace and quiet will be conducive to rekindled romance. They’re hoping to rediscover the best versions of each other, the versions they first fell in love with. And in a way, that’s exactly what they find.
That’s all I’ll say in terms of specifics, as the movie’s big twist shouldn’t be spoiled. To be fair, The One I Love didn’t lose me when it made this initial leap. In fact, in its own fantastical way, the plot twist repackages an essential truth about marriage: the gap between the spouse we want to be and the spouse we are can often feel huge.
As the scenario becomes more literal – though not necessarily more sensible – the movie loses its power as metaphor.
Yet that sort of introspection gets lost as The One I Love continues to crank up its plot. As the scenario becomes more literal – though not necessarily more sensible – the movie loses its power as metaphor. The hows and whys take over, even as they’re never quite fully explained.
The feature directing debut of Charlie McDowell, The One I Love also suffers from an inconsistent tone. Some scenes are played for comedy (that’s the soundtrack’s main key), while others strive for magical realism, sci-fi intrigue or psychological thriller. Few films can juggle this many disparate sensibilities (Her, perhaps?); The One I Love is not one of them.
With the movie wavering this way and that, Moss and Duplass are left adrift, forced to play to a different audience in each scene. To some degree, this is a necessity of that plot twist. Yet I don’t mean they are inconsistent in the depiction of their characters. Rather, the scenes their characters are in have inconsistent aims. It’s a small but crucial difference, and one that leaves two talented actors flailing about.