Every moviegoing year has a movie like The One I Love. That one movie where everyone who sees it unanimously and silently agrees to keep quiet about it.
It’s a neat decision to witness. It shows that the average audience still loves a challenge and still loves to keep a secret, hoping that their friends can one day see the movie and join the club.
Just as many who have seen and loved Charlie McDowell’s peculiar lil’ indie, I’m also going to keep details at a sparse supply. I will reveal there are two leads. A man and his wife, played nicely by Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss. I’ll also reveal that their marriage is hitting a bumpy patch due to a lack of spontaneity, forgiveness, and trust. Additionally, a therapist (played perfectly by Ted Danson) suggests that they head off on a getaway to a recommended house just outside of town, but just far enough away from other people. That’s all you’ll hear from me regarding the plot.
That synopsis sounds fairly conventional and promises you the usual hitches you’d come to expect from relationship dramas, but The One I Love is oh so very different.
The events in Justin Lader’s screenplay play with elements and ideas of fantasy, but are enabled by inner desires, aspirations, and acceptance. Even laying that out on the table has me walking a fine line and will – most likely – have movie goers indicting me of giving away spoilers. But, even knowing that going into the McDowell’s film doesn’t give away its reality-altering manipulations.
It’s all very trippy, but McDowell doesn’t stray away from any truth or reason. This is a tale that deals with science fiction attributes, but has sensible characters talking about what’s going on and how they’re feeling about all of it. Duplass and Moss are actors who realize their roles and the film’s underlying subtext, and they’re both able to competently fly by the seat of their pants if the scene calls for instinctive reactions.
There’s a bit of sneaking around and some clever strategies between the couple, which all adds more playfulness to the bizarre tension. The film’s curious score lets us know it’s never taking itself too seriously.
The One I Love is very funny and very weird, but also very real. Its secrets deserve to be kept undercover, but praise for it shouldn’t be smuggled.