Many of us would consider ourselves lucky if we found one great love in our lifetime. But what happens when lightning strikes more than once, and life forces you to choose between them? This is the question at the center of director Andy Fickman‘s One True Loves, which stars Phillipa Soo as Emma, a young woman forced to make this exact decision after her presumed-dead husband Jesse (Luke Bracey) returns home to find her engaged to her childhood best friend Sam (Simu Liu). Caught between two hunks who love you? We should all have such problems.

Bored with life in their small, Hallmark-esque town, teenage Emma falls hard for Jesse, who has aspirations to get out and see the world, and eventually he does, with Emma along for the ride. The two spend years travelling, going from one exotic locale to the next, and eventually tie the knot. Tragedy strikes on their first anniversary, however, when Jesse heads out to Alaska for a project, and his helicopter crashes. His body isn’t recovered, but eventually the search is called off and he’s declared dead.


Moving back home with her sister Marie (Michaela Conlin), Emma tries to pick herself back up, and eventually runs into her high school best friend Sam, now a music teacher at their old school. The two reconnect as she processes her grief, eventually falling in love and getting engaged. Things gets complicated when Emma gets a call out of the blue from Jesse, who tells her he’s still alive.

Image via The Avenue

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The first concern with any story of this kind is that when one character is forced to choose between two love interests, suddenly everyone starts behaving badly. The one caught in the middle becomes incapable of reading between any lines at all, while the two love interests engage in the kind of manipulative subterfuge better suited to weeks of intense sessions with a therapist than a happy-ever-after ride into the sunset. Fortunately for everyone involved — the audience, especially — Sam and Jesse never resort to any kind of caveman brawl to win Emma’s affections, with Sam instead giving her the space to spend time with Jesse and figure out what it is she wants that would make her happiest.

It’s been a banner year for author Taylor Jenkins Reid, who wrote the book on which One True Loves is based, as this year also saw her bestselling novel Daisy Jones & The Six get a Prime Video series adaptation. But where Daisy Jones lost some of its heart, and the deeper themes of what made the story work in the name of TV series dramatics, One True Loves stays consistently true throughout to both its central thesis, and to the different journeys Emma, Sam and Jesse are on, likely owing to Jenkins Reid penning the screenplay herself alongside her husband Alex Jenkins Reid.

Where One True Loves really shines is in tackling its heaviest themes. The major undercurrent of Emma’s story is the non-linear nature of grief, and the different ways it can manifest over the years. Denial, sadness, desperation, going through the motions and surviving if not truly living. Soo conveys the range of these feelings beautifully, even if the story is relentless in giving Emma reasons and occasions to grieve, only rarely allowing her to show her funnier, sunnier side.

For Jesse, returning home is less a happy homecoming and more wave after wave of trauma, as his years away have understandably had an effect on him. When the only thing that helped him survive with his mind intact was the idea of returning to the life he lost, learning that the world moved on without him hits him hard. Bracey plays Jesse’s struggle while walking the line between understandable and unreasonable, growing more into the latter the longer he spends reunited with Emma, though thankfully never crosses the line into cartoon villain territory. We don’t need to know exactly what happened to him over the last several years to know that it has clearly left a scar.

Phillipa Soo and Luke Bracey getting married in One True Loves
Image via The Avenue

The one thing stopping the movie from sliding into complete drama territory is Liu’s Sam. He is the comedic heart of the film as he tries desperately to be the supportive fiancé Emma needs, while trying not to spiral at the idea of losing her to Jesse for the second time. He’s so earnest in how he feels about her, and so clearly invested in her best interests that it had me rooting for him and Emma to make it. And I am never the type to cheer for a childhood-friends-to-lovers scenario.

One True Loves ultimately tackles the idea of what it means to grow and change through both the best and the worst life can hand a person, told through performances that get to the heart of the script, and direction that supports without overwhelming. It’s not a romantic comedy, per se, but the decision to not lean more heavily in that direction works in the film’s favor, never letting a desire for comedy outweight the sincerity at the heart.

Rating: B+

One True Loves hits theaters on April 7, digital on April 14, and On Demand on April 28.

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