Siblings Jesús (Pablo Sigal) and Maria José (Valeria Giorcelli) work symbiotically. The siblings live together in their late father’s apartment. They have their own routine. They don’t particularly want to be disturbed. So, when their half-sister Magdalena (Augustina Cerviño) arrives from Spain suggesting that dad’s death means it’s time to sell the place and split the profits, there’s an instant frisson. Jesús and Maria José are polite, they’re all smiles, but this kind of change is clearly not going to be taken lightly…so before long, Magdalena has taken a nasty tumble and is confined to bed. But will she ever be allowed to leave?
This feature debut from Martín Blousson and Macarena García Lenzi operates in a familiar territory (with notes of films like Shrew’s Nest and playing like an episode of Inside No. 9 at times), a blend of dark comedy, fairy tale and horror in which games are always being played. However, there is real empathy for the characters with some striking flourishes of imagination, and it keeps you on your toes. Both we and Magdalena are constantly reassessing the situation, trying to gauge which of the two siblings is more reasonable and more likely to put an end to this increasingly perilous situation. At first, Jesús seems more stable, looking to placate his sister’s whims and perhaps not seeing the risks involved. But as the film progresses, we start to wonder if he’s more manipulator than enabler, directing her sometimes violent temper where it will cause the most damage and exploiting the fact that she’s so easily wounded.
Although the single setting is claustrophobic, the directors break from this intensity to plunge into the Wizard Of Oz-inspired film Jesús is working on and Maria José’s own Dorothy fantasies, demonstrating that they’re far more interested in the disorienting nature of this power play than the kind of gruelling endurance test the set-up might suggest. Sigal and Giorcelli give incredibly nimble performances, nailing each twitch and switch. With every humiliation comes a recalculation and the potential for revenge, childish joy can become dangerous anger, and there’s real pain lurking under all of this. While Cerviño has the least showy role, she’s fantastic as she does her best to work each of her captors.
It’s an acquired taste, perhaps, but it’s beautifully constructed and brilliantly performed, a twisty and surprisingly touching family chiller.
Rock, Paper And Scissors was seen and reviewed at Arrow Video FrightFest 2019.