An arrestingly original genre-bending exploration of sexual relationships. Charlie McDowell’s directing debut demands to be seen before your friends tell you about the big twist, ie. as soon as possible.
To spoil or not to spoil? The best possible way to enjoy a film is to have as little prior knowledge as possible, to be taken (hopefully) on an unexpected journey. Yet how can you be lured to see a film without knowing anything at all about it? As a critic, there’s always the struggle to find the right balance, to tempt prospective punters to spend time and money on a film without revealing so much of the plot that it ruins the experience.
Personally, I’ve always veered on the side of revealing little of the narrative. If you want more, watch a trailer. With a standard 3-act structure, most trailers give away all but the conclusion to a film. But even spoiler-prone critics and marketers must pause when thrown with a unique experience such as The One I Love. What do you do when the big twist happens in the first half hour? How do you impel people to see a film without telling them the basic concept?
OK, the least I can do is give you the set up: Young couple, Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) and Ethan (Mark Duplass) have marital problems. They take the plunge and see a counsellor (Ted Danson) who not only suggests a week away in the countryside, but even recommends a particular estate to stay at.
What awaits Sophie and Ethan at their retreat is best left unrevealed, suffice to say, it’s the kind of disorientating brain flip that qualifies The One I Love as the sci-fi, surrealist rom-com relationship drama of the year. It’s Luis Bunuel meets Nora Ephron.
Forbidden plot details aside, Elisabeth Moss further consolidates herself as an intriguing, intelligent screen presence, and while I’m not a fan of Duplass, he draws empathy from his flawed character.
Sometimes clever constructs like this can write themselves into a corner, but first-time scribe Justin Lader keeps enough cards in his pack to play out a winning hand.
For me, this is one of the most satisfying screen experiences of the year. And if that weren’t enough, it features the finest use of the Mamas and Papas’ Dedicated to the One I Love since Morvern Callar. Who could ask for more?
The One I Love releases on November 27, 2014 in Australia through Roadshow