Starring: Kiernan Shipka, Timothée Chalamet, Elizabeth Reaser
Directed by: Andrew Droz Palmero (“Rich Hill”)
Written by: Andrew Droz Palmero (debut) and Neima Shahdadi (debut)
Around 20 minutes into Andrew Droz Palmero’s narrative feature length debut, the film hints towards something entirely different than its initial moments. The audience doesn’t know the cause, reasoning, or consequences behind it, but it is an intriguing mystery that brings up a lot of curiosity and an equal amount of questions. Unfortunately, like many other pieces of story throughout the film, it is never fully paid off, which is a common theme in the visually impressive and narratively frustrating “One & Two.”
Walled off from other civilization, siblings Zac (Timothée Chalamet) and Ava (Kiernan Shipka) find themselves with unexplainable special abilities. With an ailing mother who encourages these abilities and an overbearing father who forbids them, Zac and Ava feel trapped and isolated and begin to wonder about life outside the confines of their farm.
Palmero, who after spending years as a cinematographer burst onto the scene as a director with last year’s acclaimed documentary “Rich Hill,” makes his mark in his narrative feature film debut with a keen visual eye and a strong ability for tone. Evoking filmmakers such as Jeff Nichols, Palmero is able to cultivate a quiet and unsettling atmosphere, matching the teenage angst and family frustration of his characters. There is also some solid, albeit slightly repetitive usage of special effects, with which Palmero is able to show restraint, doling them out sparingly without sacrificing effectiveness.
The faults of “One & Two” come at the hands of its storytelling and its refusal to answer many of the questions that come up. Palmero keeps his mysteries close to the vest, which is not inherently a bad thing, but so little is divulged throughout the course of the film and as a result, the conclusion or any of the events leading up to it lack any true satisfaction. The difficulty of latching onto anything in the narrative also leads to a collateral effect of blunting the brother/sister relationship and some of the thematic elements.
There’s a lot to admire about “One & Two,” and more specifically, about Palmero’s future as a filmmaker. He has an incredible ability to develop mood and atmosphere that should give him a prosperous career and make him a unique voice. On a micro level, however, “One & Two” never delivers on the potential of its set up. Palmero is clearly more interested in the journey than the destination. Consequently, this makes for a an unbalanced cinematic experience. As the minutes tick by and little of consequence is happening, interest beings to wane and one can’t help but feel like there should be more to it all.
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