(One & Two is the first dramatic narrative feature from director Andrew Droz Palermo who blew people away with his fantastic 2014 documentary Rich Hill (which is currently streaming on Netflix). One & Two made its debut at Berlinale and stateside at SXSW 2015)
One of the nifty perks of attending film festivals is walking into a movie blind (movie-watching lingo for “don’t know shit about it”). I went into Andrew Droz Palermo’s One & Two blind and walked out enlightened, inspired, and it made me want to be a better person. This movie morphed, bent, and broke all of my emotions, and then put them back together again by the end. It’s powerful.
One & Two is a magical and transcending experience about the strength of sibling love. It’s hard to get to the meat of the story without spoiling, so I’m going to tiptoe as best as I can so none of the fun is ruined for you.
Everybody has a secret to hide, but the big one our central character’s have in One & Two is right out in the open and impossible to hide. The story follows Eva (Keirnan Shipka) and Zac (Timothée Chalamet), two siblings with gifts you and I will never possess. It’s a condition banned by their father (Grant Bowler) but supported by their sick mother, Elizabeth (Elizabeth Reaser). The family dresses and lives like they came out of an episode of Little House on the Prairie and we’re soon shown a man-made, wooden wall bigger than the Great Wall of China surrounding the house. The children see planes flying in the sky, so there’s no hiding that it’s taking place in modern times yet there’s a reason they live this way, and we eventually learn why. The real mystery, however, is the wall — it’s either there to keep things from getting in or them, from getting out.
This either doesn’t sound like much or has captured your interest, but it’s the most I can tell you.
One & Two stars a cast of mostly the unfamiliar. Reaser is quickly building a name for herself with work in the Twilight films, but keep these two on your radar: Shipka and Chalamet. Both have crossed television screens of late, and Shipka is an underdog MVP as Don and Betty Draper’s increasingly awesome daughter Sally on Mad Men. While both are barely in their teens, they project maturity and sincerity in their respective roles — this movie’s story probably would not work without their commitment. Their convictions demand us to feel passionately thick and strong for their well-being.
One caveat about One & Two is that it’s what most will consider an “arthouse film,” and that’s ok by me. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, some of the things that I cannot explain may be hard to understand to general audiences and the final moments may require some mental gymnastics, but I promise you that the journey you take with Eva and Zac is worth it. The story overpowers it being “artsy.” It’s not even artsy (that’s a stupid word, by the way, and we need to get rid of it) but better, it’s what an intelligent person would classify it as “innovative filmmaking.” This is not art for the sake of being art, but rather it’s a profound and well planned out story on the utter importance of family. Sure, this may sound simple, but I assure you, dear reader, there are moments in this film that will leave you slack-jawed. Trust.
From the first frame to the last, you are taken care of and in good hands by director Palermo, who co-directed the heartfelt and heartbreaking documentary, Rich Hill. Palermo is best known for his work as a cinematographer, and you may have seen some of his stunning work, which includes Hannah Fidell’s A Teacher, Kat Candler’s short Black Metal, and the abundantly hyped You’re Next.
I am eager to see what Palermo can do with a major budget. If Hollywood hasn’t knocked on his door yet, they will surely kick it in soon. One & Two is magical, beautiful, and soul-stirring.