It might just be because of the scenes in the pool, but John Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer” was never far removed from my viewing of The One I Love. The obsession with suburban America that Cheever shared with the likes of John Updike also seems applicable here, but it’s probably more the hazy blur of realism and surrealism that brings the late writer’s most famous story to mind throughout the film. Granted The One I Love is more lighthearted than anything Cheever ever wrote, but there’s still a sustained feeling of dread and discomfort here. That’s coincidentally what sets the movie apart from most others, pulling it safely out of rom-com zaniness territory while managing to maintain a humorous mood.
Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss are Ethan and Sophie, troubled young couple who find their marriage in jeopardy. Their counselor (who, for some reason, is played by Ted Danson) suggests a getaway at a picturesque hillside home designed specifically, it seems, for troubled young couples. They go. They have a great first night. After that, though, things go a little haywire. There’s something off about the little guest house in back. What was all the confusion about that first night? Could this be a dangerous place? Should they leave? Stay? Was this Ted Danson’s intention?