Charlie McDowell's debut feature, The One I Love, views like a combination of The Stepford Wives, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Rosemary's Baby. One, in fact, wonders if this was one of the initial elevator pitches when McDowell was initially trying to get funding (though, of course, when you're working with Mark Duplass, you come to realize that outside funding is unnecessary). After struggling to overcome the obstacle of infidelity in their relationship, married couple Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) decide to take the advice of their nameless counselor (played by Ted Danson) and head for a weekend getaway at a remote, picturesque house recommended specifically by said therapist. The result turns quickly sinister, unexpected and unnerving.
McDowell's deftness in unraveling the bizarre plot twist of the story early on in the film serves to reel us in and keep us hooked for the entirety of the narrative--no matter how macabre things get. At first, the weekend starts out normally enough, with Ethan and Sophie playing nice with one another in spite of the trust issues Sophie has with him after his committing of adultery. To loosen up a bit, the two smoke some pot and drink as though their marriage depends on it. When Sophie meanders into the guest room later that night, she finds a seemingly alternate version of Ethan: a cooler, more romantic, more attentive one.
Ethan urges her to spend the night in the guest house with him, leading her to return to the main property to collect her things. It's there that she sees Ethan sleeping on the couch as though he'd never left. Creeped out by how quickly he seemed to have returned to the house, Sophie asks how he got back before her. It is at this point that they get into an argument about the events that have happened over the past few hours. Confused by Sophie's anger, Ethan goes into the guest house to continue sleeping on a different couch, where he awakens to a very different wife, though she appears to look exactly the same. When Sophie and Ethan have the epiphany that they're co-existing with two doppelgangers of themselves, they both have very opposing reactions. Sophie, enamored of the more dashing incarnation of Ethan, wishes to stay and "explore" the possibilities, while Ethan is entirely averse to continuing with the trip.
The implications of The One I Love are centered around two contrasting viewpoints of love and its evolution. On the one hand, you can be satisfied with the flaws and the complications, taking them as a part of the reason for loving the person you do, and, on the other, you can see it as a statement on never being satisfied after the so-called honeymoon period has ended. For Sophie, it's the former, as she can't help but be allured by "the other" Ethan and his charms. But, as is usually the case, one always presents their best form during the beginning stages. The real Ethan knows better, not exhibiting the slight bit of interest in "the other" Sophie, especially after she weirds him out by offering him bacon for breakfast--something the real Sophie would never do.
While McDowell's film has its occasional, mainly suspension of disbelief kinks, the admirability of him deciding to deviate so far from the norm of what a typical romantic comedy entails more than makes up for it. After all, we've long ago left the Golden Era of 90s rom-coms like My Best Friend's Wedding and Notting Hill (maybe it has to do with Julia Roberts aging). And with this acknowledgement comes the need for somebody besides Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze to stray from the prototypical formula of the boy loses girl storyline. Thank god we have the dynamic duo of Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss, breaking out from her Peggy Olson mold, to help pioneer this new genre.