Rediscovering Life and Love Among the Vineyards of Southern France.
DIRECTED BY NOAH GILBERT (2021)
I admit that one of the pleasures I find in movies is in watching pretty people do things in pretty places. It helps hold my interest over the course of 100 or so minutes if the things these pretty people do are interesting, but if they’re pretty enough, and the location is pretty enough, I can be pretty forgiving. Happily for The Only One, everything in this movie is very, very pretty.
Written by Seth Gilbert and directed by his brother Noah, The Only One was shot (mostly) among the vineyards of southern France. A woman by the name of Tom (Caitlin Stasey) has come to a winery seeking David (Jon Beavers), an old flame whom she ghosted six years ago. While David hasn’t quite gotten over Tom (and David’s brother-in-law Rob (Hugo Armstrong) still feels a burning hatred towards her), he’s at least come to terms with her nature. She suffers from an insatiable wanderlust and cannot stand to be settled in place for too long.
So why, after all this time, has she returned to David’s life? She claims she saw a post about his winery and this spurred a desire in her to come visit. Or is it that, having just turned thirty, she’s starting to question her lifestyle choices, and is feeling the urge to put down some roots before it’s too late and David is the only guy with whom she could ever see herself doing that. Or maybe it’s just that she craved a really good Mourvedre and a Mediterranean beach on which to drink it? Or maybe all of the above. In any event, Tom’s arrival might threaten David’s plans as a winemaker, just as he’s on the verge of hitting it big.
There’s not a lot that really happens in this film. There are lots of conversations, lots of wine drinking, some motorcycle riding, and at one point several characters are on a boat. Uncomfortable truths are confronted, decisions are made rashly, and at one point Tom and David find themselves having to busk for car repair money.
That is not to say the movie is boring. It’s just very low stakes. Early on, we’re introduced to several irreplaceable wine bottles that date back decades. Having seen movies, we know something is going to happen to these bottles. And something does, but it happens much earlier than expected, removing that potential source of tension.
All of the actors are very good, with Hugo Armstrong’s monolog about his first Valentines’ Day with his wife-to-be being a stand out. Noah Gilbert gives his actors plenty of space to just… act, while he keeps the camera trained on them for long stretches. And those long takes pull the viewer into the world these characters inhabit.
And what a world it is. The cinematography by Todd Bell captures the beauty of France’s Mediterranean coast. The landscapes are lush, the lighting is radiant. Everything has that golden magic hour glow, even in the middle of the day. If your movie is going to consist of long conversations, you could do worse than setting them at a table overlooking a vineyard in the Rhone valley.