Andrew Droz Palermo’s leisurely coming-of-age tale One And Two takes the puberty metaphors of superhero mythology and locates them in an eerily still and isolated rural America.
Putting characters with Nightcrawler’s powers from the X-Men into a Terrence Malick landscape is a nice idea, even if there’s not a lot of substance beyond that.
Eva (Kiernan Shipka) and Zac (Timothée Chalamet) live with their parents on a farm surrounded by a large wall. They’re both hiding a powerful secret: they can teleport, which scares the life out of their short-tempered father Daniel (Grant Bowler). Every time they use their abilities, their kindly mother Elizabeth (Elizabeth Reaser) seems to get sicker and sicker.
Will Eva and Zac do as their father commands and put a stop to their nightly jumps out of the house, or will they finally break free from him?
The script from Palermo and Neima Shahdadi offers a beguiling setup, as the idyllic world that this family has created for themselves starts to reveal itself as something more sinister. It quickly becomes apparent that the wall has been constructed to keep the children in rather than anything out, and Bowler’s tightly wound performance is a welcome threat in a film with so little forward momentum.
This might sound unkind, but it’s accurate, as One And Two is simply the story of its two teens trying to break out from their oppressive home life, and the second half seems to be spinning its wheels a bit. The pressure cooker of Zac and Eva’s home is nicely contrasted with the understated magic of their abilities, and Chalamet and especially Shipka (Mad Men’s Sally Draper) are excellent as the two teenagers faced with the question of whether or not to embrace their potential or live according to their home’s oppressive rules.
It’s a very handsomely made film, the performances are very good, and Palermo’s understated vision is definitely intriguing. We just can’t help wishing that there was a bit more to it.