Overview: A couple on the rocks (Mark Duplass & Elisabeth Moss) spend a weekend at mysterious retreat with an unusual secret. RADiUS-TWC; 2014; Rated R; 91 Minutes
Artificial Heart: There’s nothing more frustrating than a great film that can’t stick the landing. The One I Love doesn’t totally self-destruct in its final 20 minutes, but it is disappointing to see such an interesting concept squandered on a rote, over-complicated final act. To explain the premise would be to reveal too much (the film’s trailer is 100% safe for spoiler-phobes, which is refreshing) but suffice to say that it’s a Twilight Zone-y take on couples therapy. At least, it is for the first hour or so. After that, it devolves into a series of relationship cliches that seem to come from a different film altogether. The first two-thirds of the film are weakened by the fact that they were building to such a lame conclusion.
Journeyers: The problem is that the first two-thirds are so good, and it would be disingenuous to suggest that the film’s ending destroyed all of my goodwill for it. The early scenes, where Sophie (Moss) and Ethan (Duplass) explore the mysteries of their vacation retreat are delightful. Watching characters with such inquisitive and curious minds tackle such a weird dilemma is a consistent joy, and Moss and Duplass are both fantastic. The secret ingredient is the tone with which the film depicts their journey. It’s irreverent and light without sacrificing the thrilling confusion that comes with the premise.
Pulling Off the Tarp: The film’s greatest misstep is its insistence on explaining itself. It doesn’t seem to realize that it’s at its best when the mystery is intact. The real problem is that it only gives us so many clues; enough to keep us confused and not nearly enough to make the revelation of any of them worthwhile. If they had given away everything or nothing, it would have been a different story. But the fact that they go halfway is truly unsatisfying. It takes away the mystique of the earlier scenes and distracts from the humans that the story is ostensibly all about.
Wrap-Up: The One I Love’s lame ending is redeemed by its unique premise and two stellar central performances.