There are some incredible independent films that, due to their small marketing budget and lack of a stream engine behind them, miss out on the attention they deserve. This is a tragedy that doesn’t settle well with me, therefore I’d like to mention one each week that I think is worth the trouble of seeking out.
Today’s film is The One I Love. Now, I’ve heard it described as both a psychological thriller and a romantic comedy; it pleasantly falls into both categories, but please, don’t hold that against it. This film is Charlie McDowell’s debut feature that premiered at Sundance last year, written by Justin Lader and starring Mad Men‘s Elizabeth Moss and Togetherness‘s Mark Duplass (his brother, Jay, with whom he frequently collaborates, executive produced). It’s a story that includes some nice surprises, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Alright, so Ethan and Sophie are your regular married couple. They’ve been together for a while and they’re having fights, just trying to get through the daily slog like everybody else. When their therapist suggests a weekend retreat at a secluded estate, they jump on the idea. Maybe a relaxing weekend away is all they need to save their marriage. Probably not, but it’s worth a try.
They go to the estate and everything seems perfect and normal, because why wouldn’t it? Then slowly, things start becoming weird. Like, they have sex in the guest house, and then Sophie returns to the main house to find Ethan asleep. When she mentions the sex they just had, Ethan claims to not remember. Various other encounters, such as Sophie making eggs and bacon for Ethan, even though she’s refused to cook bacon in the past, suggest to Ethan and Sophie that there are alternate versions of themselves, alive, walking and talking in this house and trying to convince the real Ethan and Sophie that they are them. This idea of being imprisoned with a double of yourself is an actualization of my worst fear, though I don’t think the filmmakers knew that when they were making it.
As things start to unravel further, Ethan tries to reckon with the ‘other’ Ethan and Sophie. He sets ground rules, determined to conquer the strange phenomenon. That seems like it might work, until they start conspiring against him. If Ethan and Sophie’s marriage was on the rocks before, it’s certainly a hot mess now that they have to contend with these freaky doubles of themselves.
What’s so interesting about The One I Love is that it starts off as a mundane story about a couple trying to save their marriage, then transforms into a psychological mind warp where nothing is as it should be. The film employs the old trick of two characters doubling to become four, but the cat and mouse chase that follows is highly original and unpredictable. I love that Ethan and Sophie are given a real-life mirror with which to examine their behavior–it’s an uncomfortable thought, though in this case a welcoming one. And I should point out that sentimentality could so easily come into play here, yet it never does.
If your interest is piqued, check out The One I Love on Netflix streaming, iTunes or Amazon Prime. It stuck with me heavily, all these weeks and months later, and I hope you get something out of it, too.
Are you going to watch this film? Are you already a fan? Reach out to me on Twitter with your thoughts, or make a comment in the section below.
IMAGE: RADiUS TWC/Duplass Brothers Productions