It gets hard to be generally surprised from a film if one has seen so many over the years; especially if one is hardly given any semblance of plot as shown in the trailer. But The One I Love is so bizarrely brilliant that any discussion of what is going on would ruin the shock and surprise of the entire film. So tiptoeing is the name of the game here as I will do everything I can to not spoil anything, as hard as that may be.
Married couple Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) are in therapy as they find their marriage crumbling after Mark cheated on her and Sophie’s disinterest in him. Beforehand they used to do unpredictable things that would make their marriage exciting. Now it’s in a dead heap, more or less. Their psychiatrist (Ted Danson) recommends that they go to a vacation house for a weekend getaway in hopes of revitalizing their broken marriage. He says that every couple that goes comes back renewed. The couple willing to do anything decides to go. But as they enjoy themselves with a beautiful dinner, wine, good conversation and weed, it takes a drastically weird turn where nothing is what it seems and they are forced to examine their relationship head on or risk losing it all. That’s where I have to stop but the less you know the better. I knew exactly nothing at all when I saw it, taking that dive into another world just like these characters did.
And when I did it really blew me away, nothing can prepare you for what you’re about to see. Its equal parts sci-fi/drama/romance all boiled into one and an amalgamation of Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze and Michael Gondry films. That’s the best way to make comparisons to and mentally prepare oneself. Like those films it goes into very unlikely directions with twists and turns aplenty, keeping you guessing till the very end and can’t stop thinking about when the credits finally roll. At times it gets a little creepy but that’s par for the course with films like these. There is a distinct Twilight Zone vibe here, especially in the ending that will blow you away. I managed to guess the ending mere seconds before it was revealed and I still can’t stop thinking about it.
With so much packed into 91 minutes, it would be impossible to reveal everything. But it doesn’t need too since the relationship between Ethan and Sophie is more important to the overall story. Director Charlie McDowell in his debut really knows how to handle an original script with a sci-fi twist. Surely this will be a film that will have people talking and put him on the map. Some audiences may feel gypped that not everything was answered but sometimes the less that is revealed, the better. The best sci-fi films don’t show you everything, but rather lets your imagination fill in the rest. To answer the more important questions may extend the running time an extra half hour or so, overstaying its welcome and ruin its originality. Not to mention, more questions may be asked about the answers that were revealed. It’s just better to cut it off rather than drag it out to a crazier plot. It definitely won’t appease everybody but what movie truly does?
The performances from Duplass and Moss were extraordinary, showing a diverse range of emotions and eclectic nuances. The character development was beyond amazing as they both go through their own trials, figuring out what they both want out of the relationship and really coming out renewed people as their psychiatrist initially said. They have a complimentary chemistry together where they both bring out the best and worst in each other. It’s really a joy to see them work together where you wish the film was a bit longer. Duplass is something of an indie MVP starring in unseen gems like Safety Not Guaranteed, Greenberg and The Puffy Chair while directing Jeff Who Lives At Home, Cyrus and The Do-Deca-Pentathlon. His work should not go unnoticed; it’s some of the most interestingly human films out there. I’ve never seen Mad Men or much of her film resume so I am somewhat unaware of most of Moss’s work, but she is slowly gaining cred on the indie film market. She brings the woman within a passionless marriage to light beautifully and quite tragically. Sophie does things that angers Ethan as does Ethan to Sophie but you can relate to her and her plight since she was wronged before. But Ethan is sorry for his past transgressions and in the end you want them to fix their marriage and live happily ever after.
The examinations of marriage were beautifully shown here, running the gamut of what one would go through to save a relationship. It runs through themes like reclaiming what was once lost, trying new things, trust, what we want/expect and what we get/accept out of partners, and what we’ll do/sacrifice to get what we want and for the ones we love. It’s shown in a way where it’s not overbearing or heavy. It feels fresh and crisp here where you’re enthralled to hear more. Everything shown is something you would ask or think about in a real relationship, which is one of the best compliments one could give to a movie. It’s the mix of outwardly elements and human emotion that make it so hauntingly beautiful and unlike any film in years.
The script by Justin Lader is whip smart, funny, fluid and really easy to get into once one lets go of the crazy plot. It has a lot of subtleties behind it unlike most mainstream comedies. It’s not that hard to understand and everyone should find something interesting here. But it’s also sad and depressing. The Mamas And The Papas Dedicated To The One I Love perfectly accentuates the daunting somewhat tragic ending. The score in general by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans was rather haunting and really added to the scenery all around. It ends rather bittersweet for the couple, leaving you going over and dissecting the character motivations countless times. Repeat viewings are this movies best friend as you can take in so much when you know what’s coming.
Taking a plunge in movies I have no distinct idea what they’re about is one of the best thrills I can get while watching a movie. But having it be bookended by great performances, brilliant script and a twist that will keep you scratching your head is just the icing on the cake. While this may fly under the radar, which I think is what’s best given the plot; one should go out of their way to catch this gem. It’s not every day that one sees a film that blows away all expectations. Four and a half trips to the twilight zone out of five.