There’s nothing as frustrating as a film that refuses to live up to its potential. The writing and directorial debut of Andrew Droz Palermo, One & Two is the story of two children with strange powers of teleportation, living an Amish-style existence in an isolated farm with their stern father and sickly mother. Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka delivers a solid leading performance as Eva, and the film looks and sounds beautiful. Unofrtunately this is another case of style over substance. One & Two spends 90 minutes on the verge of developing into an interesting story, and then shying away from it at the last second.
One & Two could have been a chilling story with subtle supernatural elements and a breakdown of the family unit unfolding alongside the childrens’ discovery of the outside world. Instead it is a directionless yarn that seems to switch its own goal in storytelling as often as the kids teleport. Is the story about Eva’s desire to explore beyond the wall? Is it about some kind of “greater purpose” – the reason why the family are so isolated, presumably connected to their power in some way? I don’t know. I don’t think the film does either.
It’s also frustratingly reminiscent of a lot of other films that portrayed the themes better; an isolated cult-like family (We Are What We Are); a young girl experiencing the real world for the first time (Martha Marcy May Marlene); the old-fashioned community in a modern world (The Village). The latter example is a deeply flawed film, but one that at least attempted to do something interesting with its premise. The film I was reminded of most strongly in terms of theme and substance was 2004 French fairy-tale Innocence, which also featured secluded children and not a great deal actually happening, whilst implying rich and disturbing story just beyond the edge of the screen. One & Two seems like it is going to do this, but never quite manages it. The supernatural element of the film implies some kind of further magical narrative that the film stubbornly refuses to go near.
Beautiful but empty, One & Two manages to drag despite weighing so little. Now that’s an achievement.