This is a Cabin in the Woods-type movie. I don’t mean a riveting and inventive take on the horror genre (though it is, in some ways, that too; sort of), I mean that to reveal the full premise of this film is to undermine the experience of it. So I’m going to be coy about the actual plot. Essentially, I’m just going to gush until you can’t help but seek out this hard-to-find indie to experience its unique beauty for yourself.
I went to this movie with sky-high hopes entirely because Mark Duplass is, at least in my estimation, the most trustworthy talent in the indie rom-dram-com genre (also known as the genre-defying non-genre that is my favourite genre). He has impeccable taste in projects and the remarkable empathy and insight-based skill set that makes him the best dramatic improviser in the business somehow also extends to his scripted work, which he delivers with almost comparable naturalism. It’s really very hard to lose when you bet on Mark Duplass.
What he’s done here is place a bet of his own- on a young, relatively untested screenwriter and director combo Justin Lader and Charlie McDowell who came to him and his brother Jay in search of production support. And even though the concept is confusing, hard to explain, incredibly hard to market, fairly hard to shoot, definitely hard to act and rooted in murky mythology, the Duplass Brothers said yes, because of that aforementioned impeccable taste.
Working with the mumblecore model of a detailed outline and fully improvised dialogue, director McDowell fleshes out Lader’s metaphorically rich and emotionally complicated story with two beautifully realized performances each from Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss. For a small, intimate film, the directorial demands here are uncharacteristically complicated and McDowell navigates the potentially dangerous waters like a far-more-seasoned pro, from the introductory couples counselling scenes with Ted Danson to the ambiguous, unsettling, bittersweet final moment.
When December comes to a close and I start publishing My Cinematic 2014– a complete ranking of the approximately 100 films I saw all year- expect to see The One I Love near the top of the class.