SIFF Film Review – The One I Love

The One I Love

The One I Love

Ethan and Sophie have come upon some hard times in their marriage. After seeking professional help, a therapist suggests they get away for the weekend at a nearby retreat. Tensions are high as they arrive to the house (infidelity’ll do it every time) and they begin to question whether or not what they have is even worth saving. Ethan goes off to clear his head and finds something rather…unusual in the guest cottage. Here’s where it gets tricky.

The One I Love is a movie almost impossible to discuss in any sort of depth without revealing its “big secret.” I was tempted to go for broke and just apply a spoiler warning at the top but after re-reviewing the trailer and cast/crew interviews, it seems pretty clear the marketing campaign hinges on the reveal. A reveal which, to its credit, is presented within the first 20 minutes or so. If you simply must know and are unwilling to fork over the VOD bucks, it should be easy enough to find elsewhere online. We’ll just focus on character and performances.

One I Love Movie Still 1

Unofficial King of Mumblecore, Mark Duplass (Humpday, FX’s The League), plays Ethan. A timid and soft-spoken husband, Ethan is prone to jealousy in spite of (or perhaps because of) his own implied indiscretions. Sophie (Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss), on the surface, seems adamant in restoring the marriage to what it was at the beginning, but also exhausted at the prospect of rebuilding the trust required to do so. Upon the urging of their therapist (Ted Danson in an extended cameo), they take him up on his offer of a weekend retreat. A retreat, he promises, that will end in their feeling renewed. And boy oh boy, he ain’t kidding.

Aside from Danson’s scene, which he simply nails, this is The Ethan and Sophie Show through and through. Duplass and Moss are the only actors on screen and the film lives or dies on their performances. Fortunately, they’re up for the challenge. Again, I’m being very careful not to divulge The One I Love‘s secret, but I will say each are required to deliver on two levels, at first made to be barely distinguishable from one another. The subtleties both must exude in order to successfully differentiate are seamless and make what could be a silly Twilight Zone retread something wholly unforgettable. The marriage’s flaws are plentiful but you root for them anyway. An early scene flashes back to their first date and perfectly demonstrates how difficult it is to recapture that magic once you’ve gotten comfortable. But it’s also that comfortability that sustains us. It’s striking this balance they can’t seem to manage and the secret(s) unveiled in the unassuming guest cottage that bring this crisis to a head.

One I Love Movie Still 2

Director Charlie McDowell juggles the mundane and surreal relatively well, despite an ill-advised attempt to explain away the movie’s big happening in a rushed scene towards the end. The blame here could also fall at the feet of screenwriter Justin Lader, who abruptly undercuts the implications so beautifully rendered by way of sci-fi mumbo jumbo that doesn’t hold up after a mere second of observation. I was willing to overlook it, though, thanks to the goodwill built up in the meantime.

The One I Love is a movie worthy of discussion. In fact, hit me up once you’ve seen it and we can all talk about what’s REALLY going on here.


Nick's eyes were opened to a film's capabilities with his first viewing of L.A. Confidential and he's spent every day since then doggedly pursuing impactful movies big and small.

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