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Reviewing “The One I Love,” or How to Write About Something Without Really Writing About It

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The One I Love is a must-see romantic dramedy that follows a couple struggling with some pretty run-of-the-mill relationship issues as they head out of town to spend a few days at a cottage in the country at the advice of their therapist. Ethan (played by Mark Duplass, one half of the indie-darling Duplass Brothers, best known for their pioneering work in the Mumblecore genre with films like The Puffy Chair, Baghead, and the more widely seen Jeff, Who Lives at Home) and Sophie (the always outstanding Elisabeth Moss, best known for her role as Peggy Olson on Mad Men), are characters you’ve seen before in countless relationship-focused films — they love one another, but their relationship is stagnant; the passion and excitement of their past has been replaced by the simmering resentment of years of tiny annoyances that, unaddressed, have grown into problems that threaten to overwhelm their once solid union.

While it seems like a straightforward setup, the movie features a twist — one that is revealed in the first third of The One I Love’s run-time and is so central to the film’s plot that it is nearly impossible to discuss the movie without giving it away (don’t worry, I promise I’m not going to spoil it for you). While I enjoyed the movie a lot and highly recommend you seek it out, what I’ve enjoyed even more is reading reviews of the movie. The verbal gymnastics that critics are performing in an attempt to talk about the flick without really talking about it are awesome.

Here are just a few examples:

  • The One I Love sets out as one thing, tacks towards another direction and then successfully winds up as a hybrid of both. Let’s just say this: The less you know about what happens in this funny, tasty twisterro, the better.” — Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News
  • “At a certain point…the film kicks into what might…be called a soft bump into the realm of Charlie Kaufman/Spike Jonze-like fantasy. To reveal just what happens and how would entail an egregious spilling of spoilers.” — Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
  • “How do you attempt to review a movie where part of its success is not knowing a major key ingredient to the story? It’s this author’s belief it will be impossible…to market [The One I Love] without giving this aspect of the plot away in some way.” — Gregory Ellwood, Hitfix.com
  • “Dancing around what’s happening while still addressing strengths and weaknesses will require some fancy footwork. Please forgive the convoluted vagueness that follows.” — Mike D’Angelo, A.V. Club
  • “Every so often a movie comes along that’s nearly impossible to describe without spoiling, so I’ll do my best to explain The One I Love in the vaguest terms possible.” — Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
  • “Justin Lader’s confident and clever script is packed with apparent twists and turns, the kind that make The One I Love very entertaining and compelling to watch, but incredibly difficult to write about. Its…ever-evolving nature makes it hard to discuss beyond broad bits.” — Kate Erbland, Film.com

 

 

For years, films featuring a twist or plot turn integral to their story have pervaded pop culture, especially in the last 20 years or so where it seems like every thriller, sci-fi, and horror flick hinges on a (sometimes telegraphed) 180-degree pivot that occurs somewhere in the third act. This fact alone makes it all the more entertaining to watch reviewers struggle with writing about The One I Love as if it’s the first movie in the history of film to reveal the main characters WERE GHOSTS ALL ALONG (just kidding, but you get my point)!

And while these reviews bring to the forefront yet again the conversation about spoilers and whether or not advance knowledge of the plot of a movie diminishes an audience’s enjoyment of it (something Richmond and I debated on this site a few months ago), I think the critics’ constant refrain of how to discuss The One I Love without revealing its secrets actually will lead to more people seeking out the film to see what all the fuss is about.

I mean, admit it: After reading all of these ham-fisted attempts to talk around the central premise of the film, aren’t you dying to know what it is that everyone is NOT talking about? My guess is you are (and you should be!).

The One I Love is currently available on iTunes, Google Play, and other VOD platforms.

 

@TheSEShepherd

 

 

Article written by S.E. Shepherd

I'm a writer from out West living in the South.