'The One I Love' review: A thought-provoking & exciting genre-defying indie gem
This unusual romantic comedy/relationship drama/indie sci-fi hybrid is one of the most innovative and surprising film gems of summer 2014.
In short: A struggling married couple ("The League" star Mark Duplass and "Men Men" star Elisabeth Moss) escape to a vacation home for weekend getaway as they try to save their marriage - when they encounter an unexpected surprise that challenges the very fabric of their relationship. (Watch the trailer)
First things first: this film review is completely spoiler free. No important plot details will be revealed in this review -- which makes writing this particular review challenging. The very premise of "The One I Love" is described in the vaguest language possible because this movie's twist, which occurs in act one, is essentially tied to its nucleus. The fact Radius-TWC managed to cut a spoiler-free trailer is itself a small miracle.
"The One I Love" is hard to put into any single category: it has the timing of a comedy, the stakes of a relationship drama and the premise of a refreshing sci-fi flick. And surprising, first-time director Charlie McDowell weaves these three seemingly dissimilar film genres into a single exciting and refreshing indie hit. Although the sci-fi twist is what sets "The One I Love" apart, McDowell smartly keeps the story grounded in the very personal and real dramatic stakes of a couple on the precipice of divorce trying to save their marriage. The twist is intriguing, but this couple's relationship is always the core of the story.
The "Twilight Zone"-like twist to "One I Love" is a wonderful example of science fiction done right. Its sci-fi aspect is a storytelling convention that allows the narrative to explore a strained marriage in a fun and fresh new way. Much like "Her" or "Blade Runner," "The One I Love" uses its sci-fi twist more as a jumping off point to tell a dramatic and meaningful story about relationships.
If the first act is fun and the second act is intriguing - then the third act is where "One I Love" runs into some unfortunate logic problems. While the story's beginning and middle have fun playing in the innovative world created by its twist - the third act feels a bit rushed and, worst of all, must finally reconcile the logic of its own vague science fiction convention. While the dramatic stakes are firmly planted in Ethan and Sophie's marriage during the first two acts, the stakes abruptly switch in the third act to a more conventional sci-fi plot turn.
That said, even in its more traditional sci-fi moments, the worst thing that can be said of "The One I Love" is this film is interesting. This fascinating and thought-provoking genre-defying movie invariably stirs conversations about its unexpected plot turns and its ultimate conclusion. This isn't just a movie about a married couple - "The One I Love" sparks conversation about the expectations and wishes of people in relationships.
Final verdict: "The One I Love" is a rare film where everyone should go into it knowing as little as possible -- just know it absolutely demands a second viewing.
"The One I Love" begins a limited theatrical release nationwide on Aug. 22, is available via VOD and is rated R for language, some sexuality and drug use.