One & Two: Breaking Out, by Sarah Brinks
I know I’m not the only person who sees a bad movie that has the potential to be a good movie and wishes they could see a better version with the pieces in a better order. M. Night Shyamalan, nearly the head of this misguided class, first strayed into it with The Village. If, like me, you were let down by that venture, Andrew Droz Palermo’s One & Two should prove course corrective. Like Shyamalan’s film, there is a family choosing to live without modern conveniences, living behind a wall, and strange things are happening.
One & Two is about a couple living on a farm with their two teenage kids Eva (Kiernan Skipka) and Zac (Timothée Chalamet). The parents are opposites in their approach to raising their kids. Their mother is a nurturing figure and the father is a strict disciplinarian. Eva and Zac are special, they have the ability to teleport. They’re seemingly limited to short distances and places they can see (think Nightcrawler in X-Men 2). Their mother (Elizabeth Reaser) is accepting of their gifts but their father (Grant Bowler) seems frightened and keeps them on a short leash as a result. Mom has seizures that start coming more frequently and get worse and worse.
There is a thin line in most movies between too much exposition and not enough. One & Two walks a tightrope between the two, and though a bit more explanation would have helped, the mystery is too intriguing to overly frustrate. You never really know why this family is living like pioneers when it is clearly modern day, why there is a wall built up around the farm, and how the kids got their powers and if anyone else has them too. As always, it’s more satisfying to fill in the blanks with your own imagination than get stuck with a half-assed explanation that disappoints. The sly effects work – a sharp crack and a burst of dust – sell the reality better than any long expository monologue.
Shipka and Chalamet are the glue that holds the film together. Both teenagers give complex performances while still feeling like real teenagers. They are moody and rebellious, but hard working. I gave up on Mad Men right around the time Shipka’s character Sally was just starting to get interesting, so it is good to see what was next for her. Shipka is a real talent, holding her own on screen against a formative figure like Bowler. She is also the only character to interact with the modern world. She balances the fear of being somewhere completely new with the strength of her character. It would have been very easy to go all wide-eyes and slack jawed, but instead she is alert and cautious.
Palemo (DP on You’re Next) has an instinctive knack for building a story and telling it visually (a minor misstep with occasional voiceover is easy enough to excuse). With two excellent lead performances, a compelling premise, and a fine sense to tease a mystery, One & Two should prove quite pleasing to sci-fi fans.