The One I Love
4.5/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Charlie McDowell
scr Justin Lader
prd Mel Eslyn
with Elisabeth Moss, Mark Duplass, Ted Danson
release UK Apr.14 slf, US 22.Aug.14
14/US 1h31
The One I Love
Double vision: Moss and Duplass

moss duplass danson
sundance london  fest

R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The One I Love With a bone-dry sense of humour and a fiendishly clever central gimmick, this relationship movie gets surprisingly deep while also creating unexpected currents of comedy and suspense. There's definitely a sense that the script is too smart for its own good, but it also feels remarkably off-handed.

Sophie and Ethan (Moss and Duplass) are struggling to hold their relationship together by attempting to recreate earlier fun times. But a sense of exhaustion persists, so their therapist (Danson) suggests they should spend a weekend alone to work things out. Off they go to his private retreat, a gated estate in an isolated hilly area. It's a beautiful place, and just as they begin to settle in they are confronted by a surprise so outrageous that they can barely take it in. And it forces them to explore the ways they idealise each other.

To say any more about the premise would betray the way the plot and ideas sneak up on both Sophie and Ethan and the audience as well. It's an ingenious idea, very simple and utterly mind-bending in the way it reveals real emotions through every scene. And while the film sometimes threatens to spiral into a wacky slapstick thriller, director McDowell and writer Lader carefully maintain the balance of humour and drama. Which means that everything that happens is startlingly resonant.

Both actors play it perfectly, playfully adding telling details and subtle emotions to scenes that unfold as if they're improvised. Duplass is likeable in his usual hapless nice guy role, revealing Ethan's inner turmoil and also the fact that he's both disturbed and secretly thrilled by what's happening. And Moss adds something even more impressive in yet another astonishing performance that exposes Sophie's deepest thoughts and feelings, including things she hasn't discovered herself quite yet.

Essentially, this is a Charlie Kaufman-style comedy that uses a Twilight Zone set-up to explore much darker themes. But it's put together without any of the usual visual gimmickry, which makes it eerily easy to believe, even as the film does our heads in. This is a fiercely original take on the standard idea that we must face up to the truth in a relationship, accepting a partner for who he or she is rather than who we want them to be. So as the chaos increases, we wait for a final twisty kick. It comes as expected, and is played to perfection.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, brief violence 22.Apr.14 slf

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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall