The best of that old television series placed normal people into some situation or circumstance with an inexplicable element, but it did so in order to highlight an aspect of the human condition.
What do you do if you’re the only one on the plane who sees some “thing” on the wing?
What happens when a child has the power to bend reality to his will?
In the case of The One I Love, what happens when two lovers are given a choice between the very real, flawed person they’re married to, and their idealized version of that person?
Is love something we feel for another human being, or what we feel for the mental puzzle of them that we piece together?
The implications of these questions are what make the film interesting, and deeper than most movies with such a small scale. This is not the formulaic Jerry Maguire or Sleepless in Seattle, nor even the subversion of those formulas that you find in 500 Days of Summer or Harold and Maude.
The focus here is on only two people and the relationship they already have with one another, not the barriers they face in getting together or making their fresh relationship work. Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed) and Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) play a couple who are working through the problems they each have.
They visit a retreat of sorts to reconnect. And that’s it. One couple. One setting. But there is depth in the solid acting, the nuances of their interactions with one another, and sturdy filmmaking by the first-time director (Charlie McDowell).
Keeping to this small scale, the movie breaks the normal bounds of cinematic couples. It dares to ask “…and then what happened?” as we begin with our main characters relating their “cute-meet” and subsequent inability to recapture that tenacity in the relationship. So, we’re still tied to the rom-com, because these two have started there, but the the film refreshingly begins on the far side of it.
The film tips its hat to the construct of the relationship that is often found in these films, but moves decidedly outside of those tight barriers we’ve grown to expect as an audience.
That relationship, outside of those idealized permutations of the romantic comedy, gives the film a grounded setting. One where the people in it probably argue over wearing socks to bed, not rinsing the sink after brushing their teeth, and being ready on time.
It’s lived in and worn down, as people in relationships get when they’ve rubbed against the soft and sharp spots in each other for a few years.
And then this couple is hit with that Twilight Zone situation, which will remain ambiguous here as to avoid spoilers.
It is that unusual twist that allows us a deeper glimpse into their relationship, their concept of love, and maybe our own.
This is what gives the film its resonance and staying power, pushing the movie beyond its barriers and into your life, asking you to question your own expectations, values, and idealizations. I can’t think of a better reason to recommend a movie than that.
Have you seen The One I Love? If so, what did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.