MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The One I Love’ Ruminates on Love Lost With A Sci-Fi Twist


Film: The One I Love
Directed by: Charlie McDowell
Starring: Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, Ted Danson

***This review originally ran during our coverage of the Provincetown Film Fest. We are posting it a second time because the film has just hit VOD and theaters nationwide.***

The One I Love is like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff? wrapped in the enigma of aTwilight Zone episode with Ted Danson’s character acting as the narrator instead of Rod Serling. So as you can see, this film is a completely different take on the romantic drama subgenre with an otherworldly twist to it. Luckily though, The One I Love ventures into how love is an imperfection in itself more than any other romantic film to come out as of late. It paints a painstaking portrait of a couple that try and try again to make perfect versions of themselves to please each other. Unfortunately, that isn’t how love works.

The One I Love picks up Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) and Ethan (Mark Duplass) at a very crucial time in their marriage. Having lost the luster that they used to have, the unhappy couple seeks the aid of their therapist (Ted Danson) who suggests that they have a vacation getaway for two to patch things up. Sophie and Ethan agree to travel to a nearby, secluded locale to repair their relationship, but along the way something weird happens at the vacation home that will change their relationship forever.

If anything, The One I Love is revolutionary in the fact that it can carry a 91-minute film effortlessly with only two main characters driving the narrative. The humor injected even makes a great case for a heartbreakingly realistic look at a dysfunctional marriage on the edge of break-up. Mark Duplass is the perfect choice to play the dopey and emotionally distant facet to a marriage. Elisabeth Moss proves that her Mad Men TV presence can be transcended as she plays the conflicted wife juggling the pros and cons of continuing her loveless marriage. That may sound like a character done many times but with that aforementioned twist, Moss is able to take the archetype to places never explored before.

The twist in the film doesn’t only serve the plot; it puts the whole romantic drama genre through a blender of unpredictability in the subtlest ways possible. Instead of shoving a narrative-altering convolution in the viewer’s face, the twist is like a character in itself that plays like devil’s advocate to both Sophie and Ethan’s worst personal vices.

Where the film soars high and above any romantically complicated film is the way it treats love. Love in this film is a combined goal as it is with every marriage. What are the costs that we are willing to pay for love, though? That is where things get interesting. Sophie and Ethan struggle with love because they are trying to make the perfect versions of themselves for each other. That isn’t love, though; it’s all about being accepted for who you are, not who you are trying to be. Not all relationships can thrive on short instances of danger/thrill and that is evident in The One I Love.

Okay, enough ranting about the prospect of love! The One I Love ventures into some idiosyncratic territory but its ending almost brings the downfall of the whole film. The makers behind the film spend most of the time trying to make the argument that love can be repaired and that the characters can live happily ever after. There is literally a scene before the final act in which things are spelled out for the viewer on how it is going to end. Instead, The One I Love completely contradicts itself with an ending that almost sent me into furor. Maybe that is The One I Love’s point, though…that love is an entity that is so imperfect and unpredictable that it could make or break the viewer when shown onscreen.


Review written by: Sam Cohen – (Follow him on Twitter)

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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