by Brandon James Anderson
If the word mumblecore means absolutely nothing to you, that’s fine. It was only months ago that I had ever encountered the phrase in writing and I’ve yet to hear the word spoken by anyone other than myself.
Still, there’s probably a good chance you’re familiar with mumblecore despite the word’s meaninglessness. If, for instance, you’ve ever watched a movie on Netflix or rented a film based solely on a sitcom actor with whom you’re familiar being featured on the cover while simultaneously being previously completely unaware of that film’s existence, there’s a great chance the movie was a low-budget indie film featuring understated performances and realistic dialogue.
In other words, it just may have been mumblecore.
Specific, and perhaps some of the most well-known, examples of the genre include the 2012 films Jeff, Who Lives At Home and Safety Not Guaranteed. The former features Jason Segel and Ed Helms who each put in wonderful work as brothers whose aimless life paths cross and merge over the course of a fateful day. The latter stars Jake Johnson and Aubrey Plaza (Nick from TV’s New Girl and April from TV’s Parks and Recreation, in other words) and is one of the genre’s most critically favored films.
These two films serve as a good entryway into thinking about The One I Love as the film’s male lead is Mark Duplass, perhaps the most prominent figure of this genre, and the guy who both co-wrote Jeff, Who Lives at Home and starred in Safety Not Guaranteed. In this new film, Duplass plays Ethan, a thirty-something husband whose marriage with Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) is in crisis. The movie begins with the couple in therapy, agitated with their relationship and one another. Their therapist offers up the notion that a weekend away to a vacation home will do the two some good.
From there, it’s nearly impossible to further discuss the plot without spoiling the movie’s premise, which both provides the framework for the quality acting Duplass and Moss display and much of the film’s general charm.
At its core, The One I Love is a film about relationships. Specifically, it’s about the relationship of Ethan and Sophie, yet there’s a universalness to the film’s theme that centers on expectations. What each partner expects of the other, both over the course of the weekend as a whole and within the confines of the guest house, shifts and drives their motivations and actions.
The premise is refreshing and unique, which alone makes it worth watching. Within the context of traditional romcoms this film is “different,” for sure, and in the best possible way.