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Review: One (2016)

Directed by: | 94 minutes | | Actors: , , , Riz Ahmed, , Xanthe Gibson, Richard Cunningham, , , , Tobias Menzies, , , , , , ,

Oneis the name of the beautiful but unfortunate lead actress (Rooney Mara). The young woman goes out but doesn’t seem to enjoy it. The fleeting sexual contact with an unknown man in one of the nightclub’s toilets does not bring her pleasure either. The next day we learn a bit more about her. Apparently she still lives at home with her mother, but the relationship with her mother is rather difficult. It will be an important day for One. She leaves by car, to a destination still unknown to the viewer.

In a large warehouse, which turns out to be her destination, she asks about Ray, but when she shows a photo, the friendly employee (Riz Ahmed) recognizes him as ‘Pete’. The meeting between Ray / Pete (Ben Mendelsohn) and One is very uncomfortable, but One has no intention of leaving until she reaches her goal.

Flashbacks slowly reveal what happened between the two: when One was thirteen, she had a relationship with Ray. He was her much older neighbor and a friend of her father’s. The relationship eventually resulted in a proposal from Ray to run off together. It doesn’t come to that, but Ray is convicted of sexual abuse of a minor. After his served sentence, he has built a new life. One, on the other hand, still lives in the parental home, where she is confronted daily with the trauma of her past. Not a new beginning for her, but a life she deeply hates.

The interaction between the scenes from the past and the biting, but emotional dialogues between the present One and Pete is very good, the fragments reinforce each other and keep the viewer sharp. Initially you are left in the dark about what exactly happened, but you get – perfectly timed – more and more pieces of the puzzle.

The setting was also well taken: the large company where Pete works and where a large part of the takes place contains numerous corridors, rooms and doors, sometimes with many windows, sometimes built from partition walls, making the cat-and-mouse game of One and Pete gets an extra dimension.

‘One’ continues to intrigue through the layered acting of the protagonists, which keeps you guessing at the truth: is One looking for revenge, does she finally want to close the chapter or does she still have feelings for Ray / Pete? Pete also remains ambivalent; To a large extent you believe his statement that he is definitely not a pedophile, but something keeps gnawing… “what if…?”

The film loses some of its power in the third act, but is nevertheless worth it because of the weight that Riz Ahmed’s character carries in this part. ‘One’ is a beautifully acted, continuously captivating drama about a forbidden love between two complex characters, their wrong choices and the consequences thereof.

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