Here’s a screenwriter who’s a bit defensive about his work. At one point in “The Only One,” a picturesque romance set in the south of France, our antagonist turns on her would-be lover with this rejoinder.
“I’m your Pixie Dream Girl or something,” she complains. “I’m exactly zero of those things.”
The only thing “Tom” (Caitlin Stasey) truly isn’t is the part of that label she left out — “manic.” A laid-back 30-year-old “wanderer” who travels on the cheap as a lifestyle, she is that “free spirit” virtually none of us are at that age. And if David (Jon Beavers) sees her as a “pixie dream girl” without the “manic,” he has cause. To him she was the one who got away.
“The Only One” started life titled “Horse Latitudes” and is a tipsy, impulsive and “romantic” without being particularly romantic romance set in wine country where two former lovers reconnect after a long separation. It’s lovely to look at and quite likeable, if more than a tad predictable.
You can’t get much more “on the nose” in your story than have one character introduce the other to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.”
Natalie just shows up at a small, remote vineyard, wanders into the kitchen, lights a smoke and waits. David comes downstairs and can’t manage so much as a double take. He hasn’t seen her in six years, since “Dublin,” where they met, connected and he gave her a nickname inspired by a bottle of gin.
“I wasn’t sure you’d be happy to see me,” says the beautiful brunette in that impertinent false modesty of her kind. And to be honest, there’s no indication he is — no smile, no hug, just a wary distance as she gets the espresso machine he hasn’t figured out working. “Tom” was a “barista in Auckland last year,” so he’s in good hands.
As she left without so much as a goodbye, he’s not sold. As his sister (Blake Lindsley) and online marketing guru brother-in-law (Hugo Armstrong) are already staying there, he expects complications. Which there are. Rob practically seethes at the sight of her.
“Pixie dream girls” “borrow” things like bikes and motorcycles, the hearts of would-be lovers, and don’t return them, just an “I thought you would get it” is all she can manage as an apology.
But Tom stays to “help,” as the organic winery has just lost its horse. Her impulses gently pull David towards something less settled, and we and Rob can see it, even if he cannot.
What would you do with a visit, a seeming expression of lingering interest, from “the one who got away?”
The debut feature of director Noah Gilbert and his screenwriter (I assume) brother Seth is a bit of an amble, if not an actual dawdle.
The story gives us directions it can go and then largely stays in one place. But it’s a gorgeous place.
Old ground is covered, wine is drunk and the charming elderly vintner next door (Niseema Theillaud) is there to offer unsolicited profundities.
The milieu makes this movie, with its traditions and history in opposition to the callow marketing of “organic” wine. That’s laid out as hairsplitting “the ‘lifestyle’ thing versus ‘the style of life’ thing.”
More is made of “secrets” that each has and will casually or drunkenly reveal. A long motorcycle ride down to the coast becomes a charming distraction.
And even if not every change in direction or character revelation is handled all that gracefully, the “conflict” is watered down and the “quest” (replacing the dead horse) abandoned, “The Only One” is never less than pleasant to sit through.
The Australian Stasey, of TV’s “Bridge and Tunnel,” and Beavers (TV’s “Animal Kingdom”) make an agreeable pairing, even if the dynamic of the relationship means “sparks” are a risk that first this one, then that one, wants to avoid.
That keeps the entire enterprise a tad too low key to wholly come off. But as I said, “wine,” “South of France,” attractive “likeable” leads, a summery whisk through a Medieval town or two. Who could do with a wistful, romantic road trip right about now?
Cast: Caitlin Stasey, Jon Beavers, Hugo Armstrong, Blake Lindsley and Niseema Theillaud
Credits: Directed by Noah Gilbert, scripted by Seth Gilbert. A Vertical release.
Running time: 1:44