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One & Two

Shout Factory // Unrated // December 8, 2015
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted December 21, 2015 | E-mail the Author
As the years go by and filmmaking evolves, what changes is less the kinds of stories we tell underneath current developments in fashion and technology, but more the cinematic language with which those stories are told. When someone dings an indie movie for being arty or pretentious, they're probably not put off by the subject matter as opposed to the presentation. One & Two is an indie movie that practically begs for such a comparison: not only does it tell a familiar story in a very specific way, but that story (people with supernatural abilities) is also currently trendy, leaving the audience little choice but to ruminate on how director Andrew Droz Palermo is telling that story.

Eva (Kiernan Shipka) and Zac (Timothee Chalamet) are young siblings. They live on a farm with their mother, Elizabeth (Elizabeth Reaser), and their hard-nosed, deeply suspicious, deeply religious father Daniel (Grant Bowler). Both Eva and Zac have a special ability: they can teleport over short distances, a talent they generally use in order to sneak out of the house at night, or to dive into a nearby lake despite the lack of a diving board. Elizabeth, who also seems to have had some sort of power, is afflicted by seizures, which Daniel believes are brought on by the children using their abilities. He resists their skills, questioning God about them on particularly tough nights. Over time, Daniel's suspicion and fear of his children finally reaches a breaking point, and he sends Eva and Zac off on separate paths, far away from each other.

One of the more challenging things to deal with in discussing One & Two that it's not clear whether or not the movie is meant to have any unexpected plot twists. In case some of the movie's developments aren't meant to be obvious, I will try and remain vague, but it seems likely that any viewer will come to a conclusion about Zac and Eva's lives right off the bat -- simply through reference to other movies -- and they'd be correct. One & Two not playing this development as a big moment may be an intentional subversion, but even if that's true, it's hard to say how this information really changes anything the viewer knows about Eva, Zac, Daniel, or Elizabeth. Frankly, it raises more questions than answers, questions that Palermo and co-writer Neima Shahdadi aren't interested in answering. The knowledge hits Eva harder than it hits Zac (even though Zac will be just as affected by it), and Eva seems relatively unaffected by having her own instincts affirmed.

Another reason it's important to stay vague about One & Two's developments is because if they aren't meant to be developments, it hardly feels like the movie has any. While it's a great relief that One & Two doesn't spend a lot of time hiding Eva and Zac's special powers, Palermo's only real interest in them is that they exist, that the characters are capable of teleporting. There is very little explanation or development of these abilities beyond the presence of them, and so even that quickly feels like just another detail rather than something the filmmakers are exploring in any meaningful way. There is the implication that the presence of wood hinders their teleportation ability, as Zac cannot teleport out of a locked closet, or that perhaps line of sight is necessary for their abilities to work, but Palermo just lets the viewer make the call.

There is a very faint sense that One & Two may be a metaphor for something else, especially in terms of Daniel questioning whether his children's abilities are natural, part of God's will, but that could just as easily be latent echoes of the X-Men movies, in which mutant powers are frequently used as a metaphor for being gay. If there is a deeper metaphor in One & Two, it eludes me. Despite all of its fantastical trappings (which are then filtered through the movie's subdued sensibilities), One & Two ends up playing like a frustratingly simple story, one where the viewer is likely meant to get quite a bit out of Eva and Zac staring idly off into space. Shipka and Chalamet both give decent performances, especially Shipka, who Palermo favors as the protagonist, and so there's enough juice in their bond as brother and sister to get the viewer through the movie's 91-minute running time. Still, Palermo's attempt to tell a familiar story in a new way doesn't pay particularly big dividends here: One & Two loses personality instead of gaining it.

The Blu-ray
Shout! Factory offers One & Two as a Blu-ray combo pack, featuring split artwork of Kiernan Shipka and Timothee Chalamet in light and dark environments, placed against each other across the middle of the cover, with one turned upside down and the title covering the split. The two-disc release comes in a standard Viva Elite Blu-ray case that houses both the Blu-ray and DVD copy, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 2.39:1 1080p AVC and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, One & Two is a completely solid, respectable home video presentation. The film is generally natural looking, with the lush greenery of the farmhouse, really grabbing the attention. Other colors appear subdued at first, but it's merely that brighter colors are rare at Zac and Eva's home. Large portions of the film take place at night or in the dark, and the Blu-ray does a nice job of handling subtle details in the shadows without any significant instances of banding or artifacting. Fine detail is very high in close-up shots. The sound gets plenty to do in terms of the pair's extraordinary powers, which are accompanied by a low thumping noise, and when the two begin to try and sense each other's presence, an even more all-encompassing hum of energy fills the entire sound field. The effects all still generally fall within a certain range of subtlety, with dialogue and music fairly simple and sparse, but even then, the disc will give a sound system a bit more work than one might expect. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles are also included.

The Extras
None, other than an original theatrical trailer.

One & Two isn't quite boring and it isn't quite pretentious, but it also ends up not being much of anything at all. There's little more than a wisp of a story here that supernatural abilities, a transformation of their situation, and two strong performances can only barely sustain. Rent it.

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