The One I Love is Charlie McDowell’s feature directorial debut. It stars Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass as a broken couple who go on a retreat to an idyllic home at the urging of their therapist (played by McDowell’s stepfather, Ted Danson) in an attempt to salvage their relationship. And that’s the only thing you should know about it going in.
“I think we just felt like the movie would play so much better the less you knew about it. That’s why we sort of hinted more at the tone of it. We just felt like from the very beginning that was the right way to approach it,” McDowell, who also wrote Dear Girls Above Me, told EW.
“We’re going to do our best to maintain that for audiences,” Duplass, who also serves as a producer, added the morning after the film’s premiere. “We’re going to ask and hope that people be respectful and we’ll see what happens.”
Sundance wasn’t opposed to the idea of keeping the details vague. “When they watched the film, they agreed with us,” said McDowell. So, what can audiences know? “When they get [to the retreat], weird sh– happens,” said McDowell.
“It’s an in-depth relationship study, as you would expect from a Sundance movie,” said Duplass. “But we also try to flip that on its head by using different genre elements and doing things that you haven’t quite seen inside of that. It’s almost like we do the things that you might love about a Woody Allen movie, or Before Sunrise, by making it an in-depth character thing. But things get a little crazy.”
“All three of us have very different experiences in our relationships. When you first start dating someone, or are trying to date someone, you present yourself as this person who is probably a lot cooler, smarter, more sensitive, more well read than you really are. And then you get to know them and you feel more comfortable, then you start to reveal that you are petty and a little jealous and a little snarky. And that is a fascinating thing to us,” said Duplass. “How do you maintain that relationship and that love when the people you’re with start to change? We try to use a very pointed, odd plot device to examine that.”
Plot teases aside, it’s a bold move for a film seeking a buyer and an audience in a crowded Sundance market. At the Q&A after the film premiered, someone asked the question of how they might market the movie and still manage to maintain the surprises. “I don’t know how to market movies,” said Duplass. “We barely know how to make them.”
“It’s a discussion,” he said. “In an ideal world, we could be like, ‘It’s Mark Duplass and Lizzie Moss and Charlie McDowell and Ted Danson…you just f—ing come see it. You don’t need to know what it’s about.’ But that’s not a reality. That’s a lot to put on the poster.”
Check out EW’s Sundance interview with Duplass, Moss, and McDowell below: