Written by: Robin C. Farrell | April 7th, 2023
One True Loves (Andy Fickman, 2023) 1½ out of 4 stars.
One True Loves asks, “Can you be in love with two people equally and at the same time?” Adventurous and starry-eyed couple Emma (Phillipa Soo, The Broken Hearts Gallery) and Jesse (Luke Bracey, Maybe I Do) are living their best lives, trotting the globe for business and pleasure. Tragedy strikes, however, when Jesse takes a trip without Emma and his helicopter goes down, supposedly killing him. Emma attempts to put herself back together with the help of her previously distant family and, eventually, former best friend, Sam (Simu Liu, Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings). Years later, just as Emma and Sam are confirming their engagement, it turns out that Jesse is alive (and surprisingly well), after all. Emma is now forced to choose between her back-from-the-dead husband and her fiancé.
The film is based on the novel of the same title by Taylor Jenkins Reid, who also co-wrote the screenplay, alongside Alex J. Reid, both making their feature film debut. The film employs a non-linear structure that is likely pulled from the source material. If so, telling the story out of order may not be an especially bold adaptive choice but it is probably the most ambitious aspect of the film. And that is saying something. The film is otherwise vastly disappointing, given the creative potential. There is much telling in place of showing; a plethora of discussions and declarations of love without many demonstrations of it. Emma’s grief is almost entirely off screen and neither relationship cultivates a sense of real intimacy. Both Sam and Emma assert that he supports her through loss and accepts that Jesse will always be a part of Emma’s heart and her life, yet what we actually see are primarily the flirty and romantic phases.
Again, possibly derived from the novel, the love triangle itself is clearly the focus here, and director Andy Fickman (Playing with Fire) does not appear to have any interest in expanding on it. There are a few flashes of Jesse’s experiences on a deserted island, swimming his way to freedom (presumably). There is a singular moment when he exhibits behavior that is a direct result of his experiences. After that, there’s only one mention of therapy and it’s a joke at the very end of the movie. There’s no sense of groundedness here, no acknowledgement of Jesse’s trauma. Or Emma’s. The rapid back-to-normal mindset is accepted with little to no consequence.
Ultimately, the result is a film in which the deepest moments, the ones that strive hardest for emotional catharsis, often feel, at best, surface-level and, at worst, empty. A few moments made me smile in earnest but otherwise, this is such a case of missed opportunities. You can find similar stories with these themes explored much better elsewhere.