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Review: The Only One – “Always stunning to look at”

Based on its poster and title, one might think The Only One a schmaltzy Hallmark-style romance (not to say that those films don’t have their place, especially this time of year).  Yet, it’s less of a romance or romantic comedy, and more about rediscovery.  It’s about reacquainting with a long-lost lover, but also about rediscovering yourself in the process.

Natalie, (Caitlin Stasey) who goes by the nickname Tom, is a free spirit.  She travels the world, with few responsibilities and nothing to tie her down.  The closest she came to settling down was “almost” signing a lease on a flat with an Argentinian girl.  Though seemingly the closest she ever came to true love was perhaps with David, (Jon Beavers) whom she unceremoniously left behind six years ago while living in Dublin.  She told him she was going out for cigarettes, and just never came back.

As she treks into the vineyard in the south of France that David now owns, unannounced of course, David doesn’t seem terribly surprised.  He also doesn’t seem mad, or upset.  Yet there are clues all over his home that his feelings for her went a lot deeper than she realized, and further than even he would admit to himself.  While these former lovers catch up in the most romantic of locales, their history is uncovered, and along with it their unresolved emotions that will force both to ask themselves some difficult questions.

The feature debut for both director Noah Gilbert and brother Seth Gilbert who penned the screenplay, The Only One is best described as a nice film, even if it’s not always terribly gripping.  Its plot meanders slowly, occasionally unearthing interesting tidbits of information about our main characters, though not much comes of them.  Both Tom and David, while charismatically played by Stasey and Beavers, are incredibly calm and balanced during their reunion resulting in much of the potential emotion and drama between the two being anticlimactic.  In fact, the part of the film that incited the most emotion for me occurs when David simultaneously uncorks a large number of rare vintages in his wine cellar – any wine lover would agree with me the travesty of this situation.

The Only One, while never truly following the path of a typical romance, does eventually become predictable.  But, it’s a film that does utilize its most valuable asset well.  For the travellers among us, who couldn’t use a trip right now? With restrictions in place, depending on your geography, those with the travel bug have been kept home, or at least within their country’s own borders for a long while.  The beautiful south of France portrayed in this film is a window into the outside world that still exists despite our confinement.  Even when the film is plodding along, it’s always stunning to look at courtesy of cinematography from Todd Bell.  The Only One becomes a movie that has more visual style than a driving plot.  This film has its charms, and likeable moments, but its greatest strength is the landscape in which it exists.

The Only One is currently available in select theatres and digital platforms.

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