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Charlie McDowell’s debut feature, The One I Love is one hell of a take on the traditional romantic comedy. Completely fresh and unique, it provides very little to discuss with those who have not had the opportunity to see it.
The official trailer that was released in June, paints a bizarre picture of things yet to come. Yet it barely scratches the surface of this film. They did do an excellent job with the trailer, as it shows almost every ounce of information that is safe to give away without entering spoiler territory. The One I Love focuses on a struggling couple, Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss), who are in marriage counseling. Finding the “spark” gone from their fading relationship, and happiness hard to come by, the two seem destined for divorce. They complete several exercises under the tutelage of their therapist (Ted Danson), and miserably fail them. As a last ditch effort, he sends the couple on a retreat to a beautiful villa property complete with a pool and guest house. As the two embark on their romantic weekend, they notice something amiss, and discover something wholly unexpected.
The high point of this film is certainly the chemistry between Moss and Duplass. Known for his more subdued and apathetic roles, Duplass is able to take his talent in several directions with this very complex story. Full of a myriad of mixed emotions, that are constantly in flux, he pulls off each with unexpected credibility. Certainly not your average rom-com (or film for that matter), he blends the perfect amount of dry, foul-mouthed wit with the cynicism of a broken man. Moss plays wonderfully next to Duplass’ more subdued Ethan. She is clearly the more adventurous of the two, and her mix of playful angst and cold indifference really shows the dichotomy of her character. Full of the scorn of a jilted lover, yet pained with the desire to make things work with the man she loves, her performance is deep and genuine.
In his first film, Charlie McDowell demonstrates that he has a remarkable amount of talent behind the camera. For someone at the beginning of his career, he chooses some very daring shots, and is able to keep a blistering pace through this film’s 91 minute run time. Some of the tempo is due to the interest generated by the spectacular script written by Justin Lader. Perhaps an exercise thought up while participating in a drug-fueled counseling session, his screenplay is a fresh and welcomed entry into the Hollywood lexicon based in struggling relationships.
While it certainly has all the hallmarks of a romantic comedy, anyone would struggle to actually brand this film so. The One I Love meets all the criteria, but throws in some insane curveballs that knock any notion of plot predictions off course. Constantly drawing its audience in for a closer examination of the unfolding events, it leaves its viewers right on the edge of their seats; mouths agape. The only advice I can give, is to hurry up and see this film before anyone has the chance to spoil it for you; you will not be disappointed.