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  One & Two How Strange The Change
Year: 2015
Director: Andrew Droz Palermo
Stars: Kiernan Shipka, Timothee Chalamet, Grant Bowler, Elizabeth Reaser, Wendy Ahlstrom, Kyle Bell, Chantey Colet, Monica Crumpler, Rayven Simone Ferrell, Dale Girard, Saia Grayson, Julie Haught, Corey Maher, Ed Pilkington, John Henry Scott
Genre: Drama, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Teenage siblings Eva (Kiernan Shipka) and Zac (Timothee Chalamet) have lived on this farm for as long as they can remember, for their strict father Daniel (Grant Bowler) demands that they operate by his rules and that means staying within the vicinity of the farmhouse and not trying to venture any further. They already know this is impossible unless they follow the river downstream, as there is a tall, wooden wall ensuring nobody gets in or out, but the calming presence of their mother Elizabeth (Elizabeth Reaser) has encouraged them not to rebel too much. However, there is one thing Daniel has forbidden the children to do that they take part in anyway, for they are no ordinary teenagers...

It was perhaps significant that One & Two ended with a would-be emotional climax set to an M83 song, for that band's videos for the singles released from their Hurry Up, We're Dreaming album told a story not unlike what developed here, only where the kids in the videos' narrative were younger and contained in laboratory conditions, with the teens here it was a premise more akin to M. Night Shyamalan’s much-maligned but similarly sad-eyed The Village. Director and co-writer Andrew Droz Palermo had cut his teeth as a cinematographer on indie flicks, but here displayed the sensibility of a man who wanted to tell some old stories, yet was trying out mixing and matching them with what he would hope were fresh techniques.

Really this was a tale of a dysfunctional family, as so many indies can be, with the tyrannical father sowing the seeds of his own downfall in how hard he enforces his rules, which meant his offspring were not allowed to spread their wings in a manner that nature (you had to assume) had blessed them with. They couldn't fly, presumably that would have been too much of a strain on the effects budget to be convincing, but what they can do is teleport, will themselves into different locations in a puff of smoke as if they were old time stage magicians. The M83 children were psychic, though there was little evidence of that ability here, but the whole mood and atmosphere was very similar to the aiming for a science fictional cool.

Some described this, with its pastoral look and reliance on magic hour photography, as science fiction directed by Terrence Malick, should he have been interested in attaching himself to a superhero flick, but perhaps it had more in common with the independent takes on a genre that lent itself to blockbusters and massive budgets, the sort that subverted the style like Super, All Superheroes Must Die or SuperBob. Those were varying flavours of comedy or thriller, but here we had a family drama of a familiar, almost televisual type (aside from the fantasy element) that allowed the kids to emerge from under the thumb of Daniel, though at what cost we were not privy to, only prompted to speculate once the final credits were rolling - he had paid a price, make no mistake about that.

The conciliatory presence of Elizabeth, the reason her children don't consider leaving now they are maturing, was on the wane when we catch up with them, mainly because she is suffering some kind of fits that incapacitate her and would appear to be getting quickly worse. What then was to ponder would be how Zac and Eva would react without her in their lives, and the answer is shot through with tragedy, yet there was a reserve about the production that prevented the audience from genuinely getting caught up in the drama. Some called it that dreaded word boring, though if you adjusted to its pace and rather blank-faced assembly of oddity it was perfectly watchable, and the performances were fine: this was regarded as a potential breakout role for Shipka after her long stint on classic television series Mad Men, though once the reviews were in she appeared to be still seeking that pertinent part. Stopping just short of haunting but managing a degree of intrigue, maybe they should have had M83 score the whole thing (instead of actual composer Nathan Halpern).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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