Review: ONE & TWO, Emotionally Rich And Surprisingly Mystical

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas (@peteramartin)
Review: ONE & TWO, Emotionally Rich And Surprisingly Mystical

Isolation can be a killer.

For the children who are the heart and soul of One and Two, that's especially so, given that they have been raised in isolation, surrounded by a giant wall.

Eva (Kiernan Shipka, Mad Men) and Zac (Timothée Chalamet, Interstellar) are obedient and respectful teenagers, more so than the average adolescent, perhaps becaue the only company they share is that of their parents, Elizabeth (Elizabeth Reaser) and Daniel (Grant Bowler). The family lives on a lovely, wooded farm, growing their own food and raising their own animals for their own personal needs. It's a simple, self-sufficient life that requires a considerable amount of hard work, with few distractions at hand.

And then there's that wall.

Eva and Zac are at the age when they yearn to explore the outside world, which they have apparently never seen, but only suspect exists on the other side of the wall. It's not that they necessarily have a destination or purpose in mind, other than to satisfy their curiosity. But they just want to go!

one-and-two-poster-us-300.jpgDirector Andrew Droz Palermo, who co-wrote the original screenplay with Neima Shahdadi, has worked steadily as a cinematographer for the past few years (his credits include the home-invasion thriller You're Next). For his narrative feature debut, working with director of photography Autumn Durald, he has crafted a picture that looks deceptively dark, often filming outdoors with only available light. That helps set the movie apart from others of its ilk, and also helps to impart an almost mystical aura to the proceedings.

The minimally-lit atmosphere wraps the characters in gloom, reinforcing a sullen mood established by Daniel, the father figure. Daniel is a glum sort of fellow, it seems, the type who might walk around with a thundercloud overhead even on a bright summer's day.

As things turn out, Daniel's sour disposition appears to have a basis in reality. His dear wife Elizabeth is declining in health, even as his children are starting to rebel against his family headship. He sternly demands obedience, brooking no nonsense, which no longer sits well with the teenagers, especially Eva, who has no desire to follow his silly rules. Eva also manifests a certain gift that threatens to upset the balance of the household, which concerns her father greatly.

Burbling slowly, One and Two is too dissolute to be immediately compelling, but it exerts a steadily increasing force as it examines the characters and the challenges they face, without spelling everything out. Mysterious winds push and pull at the narrative surface, eventually revealing enough to be quite a fascinating story.

One and Two contains certain elements that are best appreciated as a surprise, so I'll leave it at that, except to note that it's a very flavorful, tender movie that feels emotionally rich and strange, and still lingers in my brain.

Also see our interview with director Andrew Palermo.

Review originally published during SXSW in March 2015. The film opens in select U.S. theaters on Friday, August 14, when it will also be available to watch via various Video On Demand platforms..

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Andrew Droz PalermoElizabeth ReaserGrant BowlerKiernan ShipkaTimothee Chalamet

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