Skip to main content

The One I Love- director Charlie McDowell, screenwriter Justin Lader, Sundance London

‘Happiness is something we need to recreate’ are almost the first lines of filmmakers Charlie McDowell’s and Justin Lader’s debut The One I Love, a sort of romcom sci-fi set in the idyllic mountains of Ojai, California.
Ethan and Sophie are in therapy- or at least their relationship is- after a hinted at infidelity committed by Ethan, and as a last chance saloon, they are offered the perfect weekend retreat away by their guru [Ted Danson] where they are supposed to ‘reset the reset button’, in choice pop psychotherapy vernacular and return to that ‘recreated’ happiness mentioned in the film’s voice over. But all at the retreat is not as it seems, and in a surreal Charlie Brooker kind of farce, Ethan and Sophie come face to face with their more conscientious and wiser doubles- and whilst Ethan remains skeptical of the more attractive Sophie, Sophie [the real one] immediately falls in love with Ethan’s alter ego, who, it has to be admitted, is distinctly nicer, sexier and more intelligent than the real thing- a construct of happiness. So far so good, in what promises to be an Ingmar Bergman meets Woody Allen meets Charlie Kaufman film fantasy- except that one suspects that the filmmakers suddenly become much more interested in the film’s conceit, than in the characters themselves. Unfortunately this too is the affect on the audience. Early in Act One I thought I was in for an interesting discussion on cosmic occurrences and aberrations, I hoped that the doubling idea would shed more light on the troubled couple’s reflections on themselves and what their relationship could be if only they let it, and what and who each other could be for each other, if only they had faith, hinting at creations of happiness and perception along the way. However, somewhere this focus was lost and instead the remaining two acts centered on mainly Ethan’s attempts to get to the bottom of the real identities of the doubles. ‘This isn’t Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ‘ says Ethan at one point, although I found myself wishing it was. However, some satisfying resolution is reached at the film’s end, with real Ethan and real Sophie experiencing dawning epiphanies and the audience does not go away feeling too empty handed.
Cinematically, there are some choice shots to take note of- look out for a confrontation between the real Ethan and Sophie, who, whilst sitting opposite each other in conversation, are filmed in entirely different set ups and never, in the editing at least, shown to be in a master two shot- hence implicating their separation further. Some Tarkovsky lovers might find themselves idly fantasizing about Stalker for brief moments, but that’s more about what the retreat comes to symbolize rather than any borrowed style. There’s also some nice metaphor imagery involving Matryoshka Dolls, although one can’t help thinking that if only the characters had got the symbolism earlier then the film needn’t have been so long.

Saying that the directing and pace is assured from Charlie McDowell and as a first feature for both him and Justin Lader, it is pretty impressive. Mark Duplass as Ethan and Elisabeth Moss as Sophie also give intricate and well-paced performances.

all these reviews and more appear at www.critics-associated.com

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Collabo- Hip hop with a difference

There’s a buzz in the air at Stratford Circus Arts Centre. No wonder, this is the 10th anniversary of Collabo, Tony Adigun’s annual dance celebration founded in 2006 to promote new collaborations and hip-hop hybrids from dance groups. Friday’s program of short portfolios opens with 10 (UnTitled Dance Company) choreographed by Lukas McFarlane lasting fifteen minutes (no mean feat in the hip-hop world) and featuring 10 tracks and illustrating some super synchronised steps and gyros executed with military precision. The occasional, surprising rigidness of the choreography is broken by experimentation with spoken word. Liberation (What Is Written Dance Company) has the same exactness, but their more simple choreography is easier on the eye after the mass sprawl of 10. Kweku Aacht and Guest Dancers produce an interpretation of a track performed live onstage- the sometimes rowdy crowd shouting out and encouraging the performers on hold their breath as the troupe fluctuate between free style a…

Once in a Lifetime- theatre review: slightly revised to reflect the ambiguous ending

Once in a Lifetime is a show about the tenuous and complicated relationship between creativity and destruction. Re-adapted here by Chris Hart, son of one half of the original writing duo Moss Hart and George S Kaufman, the show may well be set in 1930s Hollywood just as the talkies are about to change cinema forever, but it might also be poking fun at an art form that is a little closer to home. Director Richard Jones always takes risks with little produced, marginalised or very well known works in a bid to uncover something new that might be a comment on our own times. Here, a story about hapless Vaudeville trio act George (John Marquez), Jerry (Kevin Bishop) and May (Claudie Blakley), who set out to conquer Hollywood with their mythic elocution school, is the perfect fit for the director to explore themes that seem to obsess him: national myth, parody, the tyranny of power, willed self-destruction, bureaucracy, global fantasy, etc. So far, the show has not gone down so well with the c…

Walking the Tightrope- Theatre Delicatessen

Site-specific set? Perhaps. In the old Guardian offices in Farringdon, Offstage Theatre and Theatre Uncut curate a cycle of 12 short plays exploring the tension[s] between art and politics, reactions to the budget cuts to the arts in the UK and debate freedom of expression controversies. Corruption, class divides, perception, blood money, gesture politics and culpability, it’s all there and recent topical events are given stage time, from The Tricycle’s controversial decision to withdraw their support for the UK Jewish Film Festival to the Barbican’s cancelled Exhibit B. The plays are entertaining- Sun City by April De Angelis, Re: Exhibit by Gbolahan Obisesan, Old Newland by Julie Pascal, Tickets are on Sale Now by Caryl Churchill and Exhibit A, by Neil LaBute, all deserve special mention for looking beyond the parameters of funding and freedom of expression in the UK arts- by which of course, I mean a theatrical London still surfing the very last trickling waves of Colonialism and it…