Confession: I’d already seen this film a few weeks before Jillian picked it for our collaboration. Confession #2: I didn’t really get it the first time around. So I was quite pleased to get a second chance at it because it’s a very interesting look at modern relationships (with a sci-fi seasoning).
I’m really going to try not to bang on too much as I do recommend you watch this movie. My mum recently revealed that she’s been reading my reviews and sometimes I spoil plot lines for her by being revealing too much. So I will try to hold back a bit.
That said: *Spoilers ahead*
The One I Love (2014)
Director: Charlie McDowell
Stars: Mark Duplass, Elizabeth Moss
IMDB Synopsis: Struggling with a marriage on the brink of falling apart, a couple escapes for a weekend in pursuit of their better selves, only to discover an unusual dilemma that awaits them.
I keep wondering how to review this without giving too much away and also, how will I do its complex plot proper justice? However, now I’ve viewed it for a second time, I think I’ve got this. Here’s the set up:
“Do you guys know ‘Where everybody knows my name’?”
Ethan and Sophie are in couples therapy, opening up their relationship woes to a silvery Ted Danson. Their problems seems to revolve around something Ethan did and although it is referred to as “What I did”, it is not made clear at this point. We can all sort of imagine. It’s worse than him leaving his crusty socks on the kitchen floor, put it that way (GLYNN).
The couple are trying to fan the flames of a love that took just half an hour to ignite the night they met. It’s not really working, which is weird, you’d think plinkety-plinking at the same time on a piano would fix them right up. Ted recommends that they visit a retreat he knows of, just the two of them. It comes with rave reviews, all the couples who have previously visited have come back “renewed”.
So off they pop.
On the first night in their new idyllic setting, Ethan and Soph enjoyed a languorous meal with wine and pot. Things are good. Sophie tells Ethan he looks hot without glasses (he looks hot every which way, girl, you nuts?). After dinner, while Ethan clears up, Soph explores the grounds and happens upon the guest house Ethan had previously told her about. She has a little poke about and plays with some Russian dolls.
Ethan comes to find her and they do it, after making a pact to try new things. Ethan persuades Sophie to stay in there overnight so she pops back to the main hour to get some pajamas. Back there, she wonders how Ethan got back home so quickly, as he’s napping on the couch when she gets there. She assumes he’s winding her up but gets pissed off when he ‘pretends’ to forget they had sex, minutes earlier. She does what any self-respecting wife would do and stomps off to bed.
“Are you achin’, for some bacon, Ethan?”
Confuddled, Ethan wanders off to the guest house and goes to sleep on the sofa. Soon Sophie joins him and they fall asleep together, amidst mutual apologies. In the morning, Sophie is cooking breakfast in the kitchen, and seems brighter.
Ethan, however, gets even more confused that she seems to be totally over their argument the previous night. She thinks they should put it down to a wild night and forget about it. She’s also cooking bacon, which makes him suspicious, as it’s something she doesn’t like him eating.
It’s here that we start to work out what’s happening, though I have to say, if G started acting weird my immediate thought wouldn’t necessarily be PARALLEL UNIVERSE or COSMIC ABERRATION, but that’s me. Perhaps I’m not complex enough. Still, Ethan returns to the house where Sophie is and drags her to the guest cottage, telling her to go inside. Sophie is starting to get pissed off and scared, but she enters to find Ethan working out in the living room. This backs up his theory that there’s some “Twilight Zone shit” going down. The Ethan she’s just seen you see, can’t possibly be the same Ethan as he’s like, fitter and doesn’t wear glasses, you know?
The couple freak the fuck out, pack up and blow that popsicle stand as quickly as their legs can carry them. At the local diner, the couple discuss what this could all mean and whether they should just never talk about it again (I’m a great fan of this particular method of dealing). Yet, they can’t stop thinking about it and curiosity gets the better of them so they agree to return.
Ethan isn’t cool with the fact that Sophie has boffed another man, even though that man is technically another version of him (or is he?). So they come up with a plan that goes a little something like this: alternating shifts of approx. 15 minutes at a time with the ‘other’ partner, no intimacy, no sex – only honesty. Sophie pretty much breaks the intimacy rule within 45 seconds, accepting a massage from Ethan Mark II (who can blame her?).
This is where I back off a little. You get from the lead in that the guest cottage hosts a pair of Ethan/Sophie doppelgängers. The pair take their turns in the cottage, while Sophie seems more into the experience than Ethan. Eventually, somehow, Mark II Sophie and Ethan meet the originals and then things get confusing.
Who is real, what’s it all about and why did Ted Danson send them there? Basically, it’s all his fault and he’s nowhere to be found. TYPICAL.
2 + 2 = What the hell?
To the multiple question portion of this review. What’s going to happen when it comes time for Sophie and Ethan to leave the retreat? Is Sophie still in love with Ethan or has she got stronger feelings for the 2.0 version? Can’t she just muss up original Ethan’s hair and remove his glasses, or are the issues deeper than that? Have I got the ingredients in my flat to make my own Mimosa (answer: OBVIOUSLY NOT)?
The ending is great and a very interesting view on relationships on the whole and what people want from a life partner. I think I would even go so far as to say that it will remain with you long after Netflix has booted you off.
If you’re down for something fresh and more cerebral than your average rom-com, then this could be the one for you.
Tic Tack Toe Job (to keep the flames alive)
I really liked it. I did have to go onto the internet to work out a few things but I think I’m comfortable with my view on what it all means. This is a film that doesn’t partonisingly lay it all out for you and once the credits have finished rolling it’s down to you to decide how you feel.
I didn’t feel disappointed with the ending and I liked how it left me slapping my forehead and saying “Wow” to myself. This wow took on the gradual shape of a “Woah” and then I had to make a cup of tea to process the rest. Which I would say is a pretty successful climax.
I also love the cast, of whom there are only really two, the couple themselves. However, Mr Danson takes on a sinister character via his elusiveness and you are left wondering what his involvement is really all about. Why does he facilitate this cray set up?
You can tell this is Sophie 2.0 because make up and light colours, yo
Elizabeth Moss is pretty damn adorable, isn’t she? I’ve seen her in little but I understand that she’s the beating heart of Mad Men (a show I am desperate to see but haven’t yet). She’s a fantastic actress and I really felt for her, particularly when discussing the very hurtful reasoning behind ‘What Ethan did’.
As for Mark Duplass, well he’s a dream. I’ve a real soft spot for his work both in front of and behind the camera on films such as Humpday (2009), Your Sister’s Sister (2011) and Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011). In fact, he’s pretty big shit all round the mumblecore scene. He’s great here as both versions of Ethan, one cautious and guilty, the other ‘beachy’ and open to new experiences. He makes you hope for a happy ending for the original couple, and also creeps you out when you learn the objective of Mark II.
So, I was very glad to see this a second time; to really concentrate and grasp it this time. I would highly recommend this trippy love story to anyone. Even G enjoyed it and that’s saying something since it’s got love and romance in it.
4.5/5 (aka. Pretty bloody good)
I also threatened last week to start looking at pod casting. I’m obviously not very good at all (yet) but I thought I’d give it a go for this review (my official introduction will come in a few days). I sing in this ‘companion cast’, sorry about that. I also forget to talk about why I liked the film, so that’s helpful. Next time I’ll write a list of things to talk about, like a teenage girl talking to the boy she likes on the phone.
Also, please excuse the siren going off in the background, it wasn’t for me.
What does my lovely film reviewing partner Jillian make of The One I Love? Find out here.