As a film about grief, love, and second chances, One True Loves does not entirely deliver on its fascinating premise and leaves the audience wanting more.
As One True Loves goes on, we hear one of the characters asking if you can be in love with two people at the same time. This question is hardly unheard of in the entertainment industry, where a lot of the romantic plots behind successful movies and TV shows revolve around the concept of a love triangle. With an undecided main character stuck between two love interests, the audience often takes sides to answer the age-old question: who are they better suited with? Who will they love more? One True Loves takes on this trope with its unique spin, but that may very well be the only interesting thing about this movie.
One True Loves starts with a newly engaged Emma (Phillipa Soo) as she receives the news that her presumed dead husband is actually alive. We soon learn that Emma has had to rebuild her life after her husband Jesse (Luke Bracey) went missing and was declared dead in a helicopter crash on their first wedding anniversary. In an effort to pick herself back up, Emma moved back to Massachusetts where she unexpectedly ran into her old best friend Sam (Simu Liu), with whom she had previously lost contact, and with whom she eventually fell in love. Now, Emma has to choose between the husband she spent years grieving and the fiancé who gave her a second chance at love.
The most fascinating aspect of One True Loves is the way the story is told. The film starts when the main characters are in high school, but it soon jumps to much later in the future immediately after the opening scene. As the current timeline and its events unfold, we keep jumping back into the past: at first, it is the high school party scene where Emma and Jesse’s relationship starts, but soon after it follows their whole relationship. The non-linear retelling of Emma’s life before the events of the film also covers her relationship with Sam: by using different timeframes to tell its story, the film keeps things interesting as it moves the narrative along and gives information about the character’s past.
However, One True Loves fails to deliver on its interesting premise: during the entire film, I kept feeling like the plot was barely touching on what could have been a really heart-breaking story of love and loss. Instead, a lot of the movie feels expositionary, making its dialogue feel awkward and sometimes even unnecessary, but only delivered for the benefit of the audience watching this film. The movie overuses the narrator technique, which might have worked in the opening scene but soon feels repetitive and tedious. In particular, towards the end of the film, the voiceover of Emma’s letter seems much like a deus-ex-machina to resolve the plot in the little runtime the film has left.
Despite some good acting, One True Loves does not feel believable: the complexities of the situation and nuances of the characters are lost in a mediocre script with a conflict that ends up feeling artificial and forced. Much of the film feels like a Hallmark movie, and not a particularly good one, as it desperately tries to create emotional moments but ultimately fails as the audience is not invested in characters that are not fully fledged individuals. The main relationships of the film also suffer from this: all we know about Emma’s relationships with these men is through awkwardly edited montages and past sequences while the present scenes deliver little to no information about any of the characters involved.
The pacing of the film constantly feels a little off with the plot and only picks up in its final act, when it is too late for the audience to get invested in any of the characters of their futures. At the end of the day, I found myself caring very little about who Emma would choose: when none of the characters in the current timeline are explored at all, we see little relevance as to who will end up with a main character we also don’t know much about. I think One True Loves could have made its viewers a lot more invested in this love triangle by focusing on establishing each love interest’s previous relationship with Emma before the events of the film happen.
Ultimately, One True Loves could have been an interesting take on the love triangle trope but it reads too much like a Hallmark movie to truly explore its own premise thoroughly. While the love story at its core is at times sweet and captivating, the film does end up being an easily forgettable one due to its structural flaws and lack of character development. I wish the movie had focused on establishing Emma as a character in her own right more: her journey of grief and finding love – and herself – on two separate occasions would have been a lot more interesting to see.
Signature Entertainment presents One True Loves on Digital Platforms in the UK from November 6, 2023. In the US, the film is now available to watch on digital and on demand.