The One I Love is a new film from celebrity progeny Charlie McDowell, son of Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen. The younger McDowell has fashioned an impressive full – length feature debut, borrowing some elements from Hitchcock and other suspense masters, but ultimately crafting a film in a unique style of his own.
Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss star as a Southern California couple who have developed strains in their marriage stemming from a confluence of issues. One day, their marriage counselor (Ted Danson, the director’s stepfather) suggests to the couple that they travel out to an estate in Ojai where some of his other clients have found space and reconciliation. The couple agrees, and initially is impressed with the surroundings, but a sudden turn of events finds them reconsidering why they are there.
And that’s about all I can say of the film’s plot, which cleverly does not spell everything out for the viewer and leaves several elements up to discernment and imagination — something I always appreciate and often prefer in published or written works. Duplass and Moss rise to the challenge of the material and are tasked with carrying nearly the entire film only on their shoulders.
The actors are supported by equally luminous and ominous photography of the Ojai estate, a tricky music score that pops up to aid in the plot, and a minimalist air that reinforces the uncertainty of the setting and the plot’s unspooling. Even more impressive is the filmmaker’s decision to not tie up all loose ends when the end of the story arrives.
I have a feeling that this film will stand out as one of my favorites from this year. It’s intriguing to see actors such as Duplass push themselves in a wide variety of independent projects, and refuse to typecast themselves into the studio system. While I’m less familiar with Moss’ output, it seems that she also shares the wish to remain an individualistic actress and one that’s ready for a variety of roles.
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