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The One I Love - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The One I Love
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

Winning performances can make up for a lot. And we get two very winning performances from Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed, Your Sister's Sister) and Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), who, for the vast majority of the movie, are the only actors on screen in The One I Love. There are two or three scenes with Ted Danson as their marriage counselor, and one scene in a restaurant with extras. Otherwise, it's all just these two characters, Ethan and Sophie, alone on a retreat in a house their therapist has sent them to.

Although, how you define "alone" in this case is perhaps up for debate. On this retreat, Ethan and Sophie discover alternate versions of themselves in the guest house -- people they discover they can only see when they've gone in by themselves. When Ethan enters the guest house, there's another Sophie, who behaves toward him as his idealized version of her. The same is true of the other-Ethan Sophie finds when she enters. Other-Sophie will make Ethan bacon for breakfast, even though the real Sophie hates it when he eats it; other-Ethan keeps his hair mussed and keeps his glasses off, which the real Sophie finds more attractive.

There is much to explore with this conceit, which first-time feature director Charlie McDowell has fun with, but is limited by the odd constraints of first-time feature writer Justin Lader's script. It's easy to see why Duplass was drawn to this project as an actor, given his history with great movies that refuse to provide easy answers for all the right reasons. But this movie skirts certain answers for the wrong reasons, and takes weird turns that make little enough sense to keep the movie from being as fulfilling as it could be.

It has a lot of potential, though, and for most of its run time is actually pretty fun to watch. This is due mostly to Duplass and Elisabeth Moss, who have great chemistry and are totally believable as a thirtysomething couple struggling to get past a relationship-threatening indiscretion. It's a relief to see them being honest with each other about the discovery of their doubles in the guest house, and the negotiate how they want to deal with it and spend time with them. Instead of creating immediate melodrama, it lays the groundwork for building tension.

That said, there comes a point where an explanation of sorts is revealed for the presence of the doubles, and the movie seems to expect us to accept that explanation as something straightforward, rather than something that raises far more questions than answers. Are the doubles actually other people groomed to look and sound like Ethan and Sophie? Are they actual copies of Ethan and Sophie? They are played by the same actors, but evidence comes up of the doubles not actually knowing everything about their real versions, and having to do research on them.

There's even a subtle twist at the end that has come to be characteristic of a lot of films featuring Mark Duplass, but as odd as the concept in this movie is, any "twist" is easily seen coming a mile away. The One I Love is disappointingly predictable. It certainly won't be for everyone. I was willing to forgive a lot just because of how pleasant the overall experience of watching these actors was. The plot turns were predictable, but the nuances of how the characters reacted to them were not. And for a movie shot almost entirely on one small plot of land, in two little houses (the main house and the guest house), it features some lovely cinematography, the actors often lit an framed by soft sunlight or in cozy rooms.

There's not much to the destination in this movie, but there is much to enjoy on the journey there.

Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass face themselves in THE ONE I LOVE.

Overall: B
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