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MIFF 2014 Review: The One I Love (2014) — The High-Concept Brain Pretzel That is Best Left to Discover

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The One I Love is the directorial debut of Charlie McDowell, from a script by Justin Lader. Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss star as a couple in a relationship crisis. They begin the film with marriage counsellor Ted Danson, who suggests a weekend at a secluded resort to try to mend their broken connection. Once at the resort, they encounter a strange occurrence that shakes their marriage to the core, but is there more than meets the eye?

This will be hard to discuss, because if I were to describe the film in any detail it will be a major spoiler for what can be considered the film’s twist. I strongly feel that going into this film with a blank canvas and no prior knowledge will enhance the experience considerably. Prepare to read one of my shortest, vaguest reviews ever!

J.J. Abrams quality lens flare is not the twist.

J.J. Abrams quality lens flare is not the twist.

To give a broad description of what this film holds, it could easily be described as a Twilight Zone episode as scripted by Charlie Kaufman. Realities are bent and relationships are tested when the twist is unfurled, which leads to moments that are incredibly surprising and thought-provoking. If you’re basing it on tone, The One I Love closely resembles the kind of comedy/drama that Duplass is known for (Jeff, Who Lives at Home, Cyrus). Except for, you know, the twist! (that shall not be discussed, for your own good!) It isn’t a cheap twist though, as it mainly utilised to open a discourse on relationship topics, such as what happens when people grow apart from each other while in long-term partnerships, and if concessions and compromises are worth the personal anguish.

The performances from Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss are strong, and they carry the whole movie as the only two featured actors. The plot is complicated but it is easier to navigate due to their amazing charisma and screen presence. Ted Danson is the only other actor to appear in the film, but only appears in a minor role. I think most people are aware of the talent that Moss possesses through her work in Mad Men, but the biggest impression was made by Duplass. I should have known better, as he often turns in solid performances in independent films such as this, but once again I am very pleased that can deliver more than just what he’s shown as Pete in hit TV comedy The League (which is personally what I’ve seen him in the most).

Feature directing and screenwriting debutantes McDowell and Lader have done a commendable job of creating a narrow-twisting tapestry of a film that has got everyone talking about the unusual and bold concept (the twist!). I am definitely looking forward to the next projects from these two filmmakers.

Llama Score: 7I miss The Twilight Zone, and The One I Love is probably the closest in spirit I’ve seen in a feature film for a long time. Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass carry the film with outstanding performances, and Charlie McDowell makes a fine directorial debut in a film that is surprising and gets the brain-space pumping. A recommended viewing, for a lot more than just the twist.

Highlights Banner

– I can’t tell you.

– Okay, I will say that the poster is an amazingly subtle hint at what the twist actually is.

Lowlights Banner

– I can’t tell you! (although there aren’t many).

Further Viewing Banner

– The Skeleton Twins

– Adaptation

– The Twilight Zone

The One I Love is streaming on Amazon

Directed by: Charlie McDowell Written by: Justin Lader Produced by: Mel Eslyn Starring: Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, Ted Danson Distributed by: Radius-TWC Run length: 91 minutes Australian Release: Limited (Melbourne International Film Festival)

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