Social Isolation Review: “The One I Love”

Year: 2014
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Director: Charlie McDowell
Writer: Justin Lader
Stars: Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, Ted Danson

By Morgan Roberts

Do you ever watch a film and think, “Oh, I’m going to be a different person after I watch this whole thing”?  That’s what I felt after seeing “The One I Love” (2014).

Directed by Charlie McDowell and written by Justin Lader, the film follows Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) as they go to an isolated retreat recommended by their therapist.  I want to talk all about the twists and the turns of the film, but that kind of spoils the magic of it.  The less you know going in, the better.  Trust me.  When someone wants a recommendation, this is the first film I give.

So, let’s talk about the things I can discuss.  First, the acting.  Duplass and Moss are spectacular together.  On a small budget, close quarters film, it makes sense that there is an intimacy between the actors.  But they balance both the love these two people feel with the destain they are now experiencing.  It seems like a juxtaposing place to be, yet somehow, these two actors make it work seamlessly.  What I find most interesting is that, at first glance, Ethan seems more of the submissive to Sophie, but the actors oscillate between dominance and submissiveness, control and insecurity from one moment to the next.  They break down the stereotypes of one person “wears the pants” in a relationship.

elisabeth One I love
Elisabeth Moss in The One I Love (2014) © 2014 – RADiUS-TWC

“I recommend “The One I Love” frequently.  Literally, anyone in the US needs a Netflix recommendation, here it is.  But it is perfect for quarantine time because it takes place at one location. “

Secondly, the writing is sharp.  It feels at times like a Greek tragedy or like a 1930s or ‘40s film.  It is quick when it needs to be, but allows for room to let the emotions fill the scene.  I appreciate that the writing is smart.  Not overly-intellectual smart, but it does not dumb down its purpose for escapism seekers.  The writing and the structure give both a mystery to the plot, but an inevitable unfolding of events.  It is incredible how the film, in many aspects, holds dichotomies at the same time.

the one
Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass in The One I Love (2014) © Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Lastly, the directing is extremely good.  The vision of the film is so clear.  It is some of the smartest, most well-crafted filmmaking without being full of itself.  When people know they are making something special, they tend to boast in their work.  McDowell avoids this pitfall but collaborating with others on the project.  The choices he makes are precise.  They all feel deliberative and completely natural – again, falling into this realm of two complete opposites existing at the same time.

As I stated before, I recommend “The One I Love” frequently.  Literally, anyone in the US needs a Netflix recommendation, here it is.  But it is perfect for quarantine time because it takes place at one location.  It turns our current circumstances, and for some people, their worst nightmare, into this wild and fascinating ride.

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