“Witty, sophisticated and emotionally authentic” – Geoff Berkshire, VARIETY
Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elizabeth Moss) are very unhappily married, stuck in a loop of therapy sessions that aren’t doing their couple any good. In a last-ditch effort, their therapist (Ted Danson) suggests they try a couple’s retreat, which might provide the kind of relaxing, introspective setting ideal for them to reflect on their relationship, and hopefully, improve it. And so Ethan and Sophie take him up on that offer, and drive there. And the week begins as exactly that, finding both of them reconnecting in unexpected ways, once again finding the best in each other… almost as if there was something otherworldly, something magical about the place. On that first night at the retreat, everything just falls into place. How is that? Well, the very next morning, the couple makes a startling discovery that catapults their stay at the retreat into the realm of the bizarre and the completely dumbfounding. As they’re drawn further into a strangely fun but brutally self-reflexive game, they also discover that more than the integrity of their relationship might be at risk…
Charlie McDowell’s directorial debut is a tremendously smart, star-studded (yet very minimally cast) sci-fi melodrama, pitting multi-hyphenate mumblecore veteran Mark Duplass and small-screen queen Elizabeth Moss against each other in what is essentially a delightful rom-com huis-clos of the most unexpected kind. Mark Duplass’ affinity for high-concept scenarios is on full display here, and much like 2012’s SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, and CREEP (also playing this year’s edition of the festival), the basic premise and many twists and turns that THE ONE I LOVE offers are best left unspoiled, to be discovered. Past all of that, Duplass and Moss steal the show, given ample space to improvise from Justin Lader’s 50-page script. THE ONE I LOVE allows them to deliver yet another set of stellar performances that rival (as much as they enable) many of the film’s lofty sci-fi ideas, and will make you wish for MAD MEN to be over so that Moss can take on more of these roles. Wry, charming and engaging, it is a brutally honest deconstruction of the couple, in which McDowell and his team reference both TWILIGHT ZONE and WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?. All of this to say, if you like your sci-fi quick-witted and heart-tugging, THE ONE I LOVE is one you’ll love!
— Ariel Esteban Cayer