One and Two
Barricaded from reality by towering fences under a grey sky, confined to a vaguely 19th century life of farm labour and candlelit prayer – the young heroes of One and Two seem at first to be in a lower-key entry in cinema’s ongoing teen dystopian trend. Yet the similarities end when Andrew Droz Palmero’s directorial debut swiftly introduces the obligatory sci-fi elements. He and co-writer Neima Shahdadi take their ideas down an intriguing yet often underdeveloped path, brimming with promise more in style than storytelling, but anchored throughout by solid performances from its two leads.
Eva (Kiernan Shipka) and her older brother Zac (Timothée Chalamet) live on a purposely isolated farm, the vastness of which suggests their family weren’t always the sole inhabitants. By day they obey the rule of their viciously overbearing father and sick, gently caring mother (Grant Bowler and Elizabeth Reaser), but after dark the two sneak out to experiment with their emerging teleportation powers. Watching behind closed curtains, their father is quietly intimidated and prone to fits of suspicious rage – until tragedy strikes and splinters the family beyond repair.
The parents could easily have become cardboard cut-out antagonists in the siblings’ struggle for adult freedom, but all four family members are played with sufficient restraint to maintain interest for most of the film’s 90 minutes. Nobody’s background is ever fully laid bare, yet rather than see this as a strength, Palmero attempts to paper the cracks with rambling inner monologues that sit awkwardly among the sparse dialogue. These are accompanied by some of the film’s most lavish cinematography, however, giving it some visual breathing space and variety, with soft-focussed close-ups and striking wide shots filling the screen in equal measure.
One and Two’s centrepiece is what leaves it lacking; the teleportation is executed with flair and imagination early on, but Palmero seems unsure how to keep it integral to the plot as the story unfolds into the wider world. Its own parameters are left muddled and it takes a backseat in the second act, only to crop up periodically, written into scenes for its own sake. By the time its powerful final shots fade away, it’s unclear exactly what film One and Two has become – but it is far more affecting as an intimate drama of familial tensions and bonds than the vivid fantasy it strives to be.
One and Two is released in select cinemas on 29th January 2016.
Watch the trailer for One and Two here: