Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The One I Love (2014)

Directed by: Charlie McDowell
Runtime: 1hr. 31mins.
3.5/5*
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Amazon Instant

Talking about this film is nearly impossible without spoiling some things. Suffice it to say this is an interesting film. There are 2 fairly major twists that really turn the film on its head. If you like either the actors, or an interesting relationship drama, and the twists intrigue you, watch the film and then come back.

SPOILERS TO FOLLOW:

Knowing the spouse/significant other you should, or could be doesn't always match the one that you really are.

Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) are a married couple who begin the film in a counseling session. Their therapist (Ted Danson) suggest they take a weekend vacation to a cottage where many other couples have gone and been able to "recapture the magic."

The last film I watched/reviewed was Le Week-End that features an older couple going to Paris for a weekend away to try to relive the days of their honeymoon, so this is similar territory. The difference is that, that film is a character/relationship drama, and while maybe to a point this film is as well, The One I Love is a high concept film more in the vein of a Charlie Kaufman film such as Being John Malkovich. It's a strange film with a strange concept with perhaps even supernatural or sci-fi elements.

As Ethan and Sophie enter the guest house at the cottage, they run into doppelgangers of themselves. These are not visions, or just things happening in their minds, these are real people that look and sound exactly like them. At first they only encounter them one at a time. When Sophie goes in, she runs into Ethan's doppelganger. Once she leaves and Ethan enters, he sees Sophie's doppelganger.

These doppelgangers are essentially the ideal versions of these two people. They are exactly the way Ethan and Sophie wish they were. Knowing the situation is strange and completely ridiculous, they decide to try it out and see where it goes.

Over the course of the film it becomes clear that Sophie is falling for this ideal version of Ethan, and Ethan never really comes to terms with the situation. It becomes a story about jealousy. He tries to spy on her, and struggles with the idea of losing his wife to her ideal vision of who he should be. While the real Ethan may like the fake Sophie, he's very aware that she is a fake. She's never real to him. The beauty of the real Ethan's feelings for his real wife is that he loves her for who she is, and at least thinks he's willing to be with her even if it means they have to deal with each other's more unpleasant sides. But in the end does he make the right choice? Sophie, on the other hand, thinks she knows what she wants until she's given all the facts. There is a clear sense of confusion for her, but in her own way (silence, in this case, is how she makes it) she makes a choice as well.

There is an unexplained force at work here. Where Kaufman's stories are willing to leave these unexplained forces hanging out there unexplained and open to interpretation, this film goes perhaps a bit too far in explaining the oddities at work. It doesn't explain them in entirety, but for those of us who prefer to have things either left out there entirely, or explained in full, this film is a bit unsatisfactorily left somewhere in the middle.

The success of this film is in the way it's able to make us think. While it may or may not be only for married couples or couples who have been in a long term relationship, it begs a couple of questions. If by the end you ask, "what would you change about me?" or "which would you choose?" That's a couple of loaded questions, but the better question is, "what can I change to make myself the more ideal companion?"

While I'm not even sure how much I like the film (I'm going to be wrestling with this one for a while), I can't be sure whether all of it works or not, but I will say I think they've made something worth seeing. It's an entertaining and challenging film that will likely leave you thinking. To me, that's good storytelling.