PLOT: Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) are a couple on the verge of a split. Their therapist (Ted Danson) suggests they spend a weekend at his country-retreat; a spot which he says has worked wonders for many of his patients. Sure enough, at first the retreat seems to do the trick, but they soon realize something else is afoot…
REVIEW: To look at the posters or the trailers for THE ONE I LOVE, you’d be hard-pressed to peg it as a “genre” film. When it played Sundance back in January, it was one of several films I missed. I like Duplass and Moss, but to me it sounded like just another relationship dramedy and not of much interest to the JoBlo.com/Arrow in the Head crowd. That said, people told me then there was more to it than that, and I’ll admit my interest was piqued in a big way when it was added to the programming at the Fantasia Film Festival, which only rarely programs non genre related fare.
Turns out, THE ONE I LOVE is indeed a genre film, although I’d be hard-pressed to categorize it as horror or sci-fi. Truth be told, it’s a little of both, even if it’s never “scary” in the traditional sense. The best way to describe it is as a kind of feature-length “Twilight Zone” episode, which is an equal part surreal, sinister and funny.
Anyone who’s been in a relationship can tell you there’s nothing scarier than when one starts to fall apart, as the person you once loved becomes a kind of stranger to you. THE ONE I LOVE illustrates this almost literally. To give away exactly how would spoil it. Like many movies that have played Fantasia this year, the only way to really get a lot out of it is to walk in cold. While the film is so sophisticated and well-constructed that it would still be very enjoyable even if you knew the twist, it’s meant to be a mystery, thus avoid any and all trailers and simply take our word for it – this is worth seeing.
Both leads are tremendous. Anyone who’s seen TOP OF THE LAKE can tell you that Elisabeth Moss is a star-in-the-making, who clearly has a long career ahead of her even after her run on MAD MEN ends. Here, she’s playing the opposite of Peggy from that (admittedly great) show, as the warm, non-neurotic half of the couple exasperated by her husband’s man-child tendencies, and inexplicable infidelity. It’s worth noting that for 99.9% of the movie, Moss and co-star Mark Duplass are the only ones on-screen. Duplass, known as one of the originators of mumblecore, has been gaining a lot of traction as a lead lately (his show on FX, THE LEAGUE, is great), and along with another Fantasia title, CREEP, this marks an interesting genre detour for him. In many ways, this isn’t unlike his typical character-based comedies, but the introduction of the surreal and other-worldly aspects gives this a really unique style all of its own. Charlie McDowell, who makes his feature debut working from a screenplay by Justin Lader, is clearly a talent to watch, with this having a big canvas look (having been shot in 2:35:1 scope) that’s distinctive for the genre.
Obviously, this has been a very vague review. In this case, don’t chalk it up to sloppiness on my part. THE ONE I LOVE is a really tough film to examine too closely without spoiling any of the twists that make it so fresh. Suffice to say, this is the big-screen equivalent of all those “what if” games anyone who’s ever been in a troubled relationship has likely played with their partner. It’s a must see, even on a strictly genre level. While it may not seem like it, in a way this is one of the most transgressive and original sci-fi/drama hybrids of recent memory.