I heard a lot of buzz about this film on the local indie scene – it’s called Love the One You Love. Variety said director Jenna Bass brings Magic to the big screen with this film, while The Hollywood Reporter called it ‘refreshingly connective in its subject matter‘. So obviously I had to see this for myself.
I heard it was playing at the Labia a few months ago, with tickets available on WebTickets. When I was unable to obtain those (thinking lovingly about how truly South African my experience with this film was shaping up to be), I decided to stream it on Vimeo on Demand. And the experience continued as my internet was slow as all hell. Before my rental expired, I opened up the movie in a new tab, quit all other programs, held my router up like Rafiki held Simba, and let that badboy buffer.
In the end it was meant to be, and well worth the effort. I had an awesome time watching this film. Early on, we are introduced to Sandile and Terri who are a budding couple still very much in the honeymoon phase. The film goes on to explore how their relationship progresses, and eventually dissipates.
We also meet Eugene, who is a computer technician coping with a bad break-up, and an ongoing friendship with his ex-girlfriend’s brother, Mo. It’s implied in the marketing, as well as the fact that he gets beaten up, that Mo may be attracted to Eugene; but this is never explicitly mentioned. I appreciated how subtle this character was; even when his t-shirts weren’t.
Love the One You Love asks a very simple question, which has a very complex answer: “What is love?”.
The best answer comes right at the end with a poignant line: “You can make yourself happy you can do something for yourself. Is that not enough?“.
Most of the camerawork appears to be handheld, providing a level of realism I often associate with documentary filmmaking, or French New Wave Cinema. While I appreciated the artistic elements of this, I found some of the distortion of focus distracting at times, and it often created many lighting hot spots. It never took me out of the experience of the film though, which is great.
The film feels very organic as a result of many of the things mentioned above: The dialogue and the way the characters interact (much of which was improvised), and the way the camera moves around them, like an intoxicated voyeur.
Something that did however take me out of the film were the rendered images that appear at certain moments, often to indicate a shift in mood. These were often of horizons; rivers, sunsets and other landscapes that I suppose were meant to create a a specific atmosphere juxtaposing the last. It felt really out of place to me though, and if there’s something I’d change about the film it would be this.
The IMDB synopsis for Love the One You Love reads as follows:
“Across the city of Cape Town, a sex-line operator, a dog handler and a computer technician begin to suspect that their romantic relationships are the subject of a bizarre conspiracy, involving their family, friends, and possibly even greater forces.”
The film doesn’t really explore the conspiracy mentioned in this synopsis enough to satisfy audiences. The scenes that explored the larger conspiracy felt very surreal, and didn’t explicitly provide the exposition I was yearning for.
Overall, Love the One You Love is a great, progressive film from a young filmmaker who clearly has the ability to take basic human interaction and make it really compelling.
Watch the trailer for Love the One You Love below: