The One I Love (★★★)

14085-1TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: It’s actually really hard to write about The One I Love, which is partially why it’s taken so long to get this Tribeca review out, despite it being one of the first films I saw at the fest. For one thing, the plot really centers around a major spoiler, and to even talk too much in generalities is to risk giving something important away, so the plot synopsis below is going to be rather tricky for me (yes, I’m kind of writing this review as a stream of consciousness piece, at least this paragraph, so go with me here). Still, there’s enough to discuss here so that it doesn’t feel useless, especially since I enjoyed the film and want to recommend it fairly strongly. First of all, both Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss are really good in the flick, and the direction by Charlie McDowell is very confident. The movie is often clever and funnier than you’d expect at the start, though towards the end of the third act a lot of the humor has vanished, resulting in an uneven tone. That being said, few things at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival have been as unique as The One I Love, so I have no issue letting you all know that it’s definitely something to be on the lookout for later this year.

Alright, here goes nothing…the story is fairly simple, but that’s deceptive. I’m going to cite IMDb’s plot summary as a starting point, which is: “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”. All of that is accurate, but it’s that “unusual dilemma” that really sets the story in motion. Before that though, we’re introduced to the couple (Duplass and Moss), as well as their therapist (Ted Danson), who is the one to suggest the weekend getaway that will change their lives forever. We get just enough backstory during their opening therapy scene to understand why this trip is needed, and when they discover what’s unique about this spot, there’s conflicting emotions about what each of them should do with this newfound information. I know I sound frustratingly vague about all of this, but I went in fairly blind and I’m glad that I did, so I’m trying to preserve that experience as best as I can for all of you. Trust me, you’ll thank me later, especially if you dig the flick. Even if you don’t, you’ll appreciate not having look at this in another of a series of a certain kind of film.

The-one-i-loveThe best part of the film is easily the performances by Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss. Duplass is as much known for his filmmaking with his brother Jay Duplass as he is for his acting, but this is one of his best performances to date. He’s a bit of a schlub, and while he’s lovable, he’s always difficult, and Duplass commits to never giving up on that harder edge to the character. It’s a much better performance than you initially realize. Moss has a bigger character arc and winds up being just as unlikable at times, so it’s a credit to her that you still want to watch them try and fight through this all. They have some interesting chemistry together, especially later on in the movie, though I won’t say why. The only other person in the cast is the aforementioned Ted Danson, and while he’s amusing, his character isn’t in the picture for very long. This is very much about Duplass and Moss, and lucky for us too, as they create a fascinating pair of characters to follow for a shade over 90 minutes.

McDowell and his screenwriter Justin Lader do a very fine job leading you through this unique plot (with the exception of the final scene, which I saw coming a mile away and didn’t care for one bit), and it’s due to their confidence in the material. McDowell isn’t a flashy director, and while he could have gone that route here, he wisely chose to keep things simple and focus on the actors and their characters. Lader has a very clever premise for a story up his sleeve, and aside from that ending I didn’t like, he consistently keeps you on your tows about what’s going to happen next. This movie has something in common with a few other releases this year, but it takes a very unique route in telling that similar story.

When you get right down to it, The One I Love is a romantic dramedy with a high concept premise that works perhaps even slightly better than it otherwise should have. The performances are top notch, the script is very different, and the execution is high class. Aside from the ending, there’s not much to dislike about this one. The One I Love is one of the better Tribeca entries this year, and I’ll be eager for more folks to see it in the coming months. It’ll certainly generate some interesting discussions.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!