"The One I Love" is a film that cannot be easily described, no matter how hard you try. You may be asking me, "But isn’t this supposed to be a cute, little indie romantic drama?" No … not at all.
At the forefront, the film does begin as a straightforward drama about a young couple’s failing marriage, which, really, we’ve seen plenty of times before. The movie, however, takes a clever turn and sweepingly twists genres together by throwing in a little mystery and a large dab of fantastical sci-fi. The final result of this unique blend is an unsettlingly eerie and satisfyingly inventive examination of marriage and intimate connections.
If you’re confused right now, trust me: It only gets more confusing from here.
Ethan (Mark Duplass, "The League") and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men") used to be that adventurous, risk-taking couple that stripped down and swam in a stranger’s pool in the middle of the night. Now, they’re a married couple that is on the brink of collapse, attending marriage counseling to find a way to rekindle their love rather than hopelessly give up on one another, no matter how much it seems like their marriage is steering into that direction.
After listening to what each has to say, an unnamed therapist (Ted Danson, who I could’ve sworn fell off the face of the earth) sends them on a vague weekend retreat that he promises will "renew" them like it has for other struggling couples before. Running out of options, they pack their bags and head to a large, ravishing home that comes equipped with a guesthouse that looks equally as beautiful.
It’s a picturesque location, which remains the sole location throughout the majority of the film, is one that promises a weekend to get away and a chance for Ethan and Sophie to gain back their spark that they once had. When they step through the door, they’re calmly at ease talking to one another, drinking wine, smoking a little marijuana and enjoying dinner side by side. Despite that things might be going okay for the couple, this is when things take a turn for Ethan and Sophie that’s guaranteed to force viewers to scratch their heads into oblivion (I have a small bald spot on my head to prove this).
I really, really don’t want to spoil the entire film (don’t force me to, either). It’s truly a unique drama that will certainly leave you with more questions than answers, and that’s okay; it livens up the discussions which I’m certain that you’ll be having.
Think of it this way: The entire film is as if Charlie Kaufman ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") wrote and directed a drama about a married couple. If that doesn’t help you envision the unique, overall weirdness of "The One I Love," then I’ll refer to Ethan, who describes the weekend retreat as a "weird version of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’"
Kaufman obviously didn’t write or direct this film, but another Charlie did. Charlie McDowell, who previously wrote and directed the 2006 short "Bye Bye Benjamin," turns Justin Lader’s screenplay, while keeping the mystery solidly in place throughout, into a film that looks visually bold as it is narratively.
Meanwhile, Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss are so good as Ethan and Sophie. From their movements and facial expressions to their motives, the characters are thrilling to watch as the mystery that drives the film overtakes them – specifically Sophie, who is more curious to engage and get a thrill out of what’s going on while Ethan tries to figure things out.
Moss – who was terrific in "Top of the Lake" and, of course, "Mad Men" – brings a lot to her role as Sophie, who experiences a bit of an internal conflict as the narrative moves forward, one which puts quite a bit of a damper on their weekend getaway. I also liked how she goes from likeably sweet, which seems like her natural talent, to emotional to quietly menacing, such as the moment when she says, "On second thought, you finish the dishes." If or when you see the film, you’ll know exactly the scene I’m referring to.
Duplass also brings a lot to his role as Ethan, a guy who some would think is a square who eventually becomes a paranoid square. He even puts on the face of a suave, devilish jerk that'll make you want to magically reach into the screen and punch him in the mouth.
By the film’s end, the two characters see each other in a whole new light, even though it’s not quite the same way that we, nor they, were expecting. This complexity in their relationship and the plot itself is riveting in all of the right ways.
At its uneasy conclusion, "The One I Love" leaves you with more questions than answers. For a film that’s like a feature length version of an episode of "The Twilight Zone," however, answers are the least we should expect. Thankfully, McDowell and Lader keep those answers somewhere tucked inside of the guesthouse. After all, it’s where the mystery was found anyways.
"The One I Love" is currently playing on iTunes, VOD (check your local cable provider) and Amazon.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Colton Dunham
Published Dec. 19, 2014
A few familiar faces have already tweeted their disapproval over Sony's decision to scrap "The Interview" because of hackers, but it was George Clooney who actively reached out to many top players within the entertainment industry "ran for the hills" when he, along with his agent Bryan Lourd, asked them to sign the petition he drafted that initially supports Sony. Now, with hardly any signatures on the petition, Clooney spoke to Deadline in a recent interview to talk about Hollywood's lack of courage.
Published Dec. 19, 2014
For a few weird shoppers, the holidays will be a little stinky. Literally. As part of a prank, Cards Against Humanity, the brand behind the amazingly fun party game to play with your equally-as-vulgar friends, sold boxes of actual bull feces on Black Friday last month. Yes, you read that correctly and yes, people actually bought a box -- 30,000 to be exact -- for $6 per box.
Published Dec. 2, 2014
This past Sunday, AMC dropped a spoiler on social media that seemingly had the same affect as an atomic bomb. A lot of fans of the hit zombie show "The Walking Dead" found out the death of a main character in a way that sometimes cannot be avoided: social media. The fans didn't find out from a few comments on Facebook or a bunch of tweets on Twitter, they found out from the official Facebook account of the show itself.
Published Dec. 1, 2014
It's that time of the year when the weather outside is certainly frightful and the chaos of the upcoming holiday is not delightful. There's no better way, however, to sit back, relax and warm up than catching a flick at UW-Milwaukee's Union Theater.
Published Nov. 13, 2014
UW-Milwaukee's Klotsche Center has banned sleeveless shirts because toned college students wearing them intimidate students who are new to college fitness.
Published Nov. 7, 2014
For fans of anything popular culture -- from comics, movies, games, television and celebrities -- Awesome Con is a place to embrace the potpourri of geeky awesomeness. The convention, which touts itself as an up-and-coming Comic-Con of sorts, was set to take place in Milwaukee at the Wisconsin Center from Nov. 21-23, but faced with a set of logistical challenges, the con was cancelled this past Wednesday, just weeks away.
Published Nov. 6, 2014
I've accepted the fact that people love to hate Lena Dunham. Now, to add to this ever-so-growing list of relentlessness, you might've read this online in the past couple of days: Dunham is a sex offender. Yes, rub those eyes and read again. But, come on, is she really? Nope.
Published Nov. 3, 2014
Last spring, Martin Kaszubowski and Scott Cary graduated from UW-Milwaukee's highly regarded film program with a load of ambition. They've made the leap that most students don't dare to take immediately following college: co-writing, directing and producing a feature-length film with little to no money to back them up. Recently, they launched a Kickstarter campaign for the film, titled "Christopher Darling."
Published Oct. 31, 2014
After many rewrites, "The Surface" moved into production last summer that was made up almost entirely of a Milwaukee-based crew and a cast who have certainly seen better gigs. The film, as it turns out, is one that should sink because of its absurdly inept screenplay that could've used a few more rewrites (and by rewrites, I don't mean a few kinks to sort out. I mean an entirely new screenplay altogether).
Published Oct. 27, 2014
Milwaukee's Altered Five is a quintet that knows a few a things about the blues -- a genre that, despite its name, often makes people feel good thanks to its soulful vibe. Over the last year, the band often put a little groove to its step when treading familiar turf with its own soulful, lyrical twist, especially on its latest album, "Cryin' Mercy."