Parents Just Don’t Understand Kiernan Shipka’s Superpowers, in One and Two

ONEandTWO

One and Two
Directed by Andrew Droz Palermo
Opens August 14

I almost felt obligated to turn in my film critic credentials when I saw the underwater shot of bodies plunging into a lake followed by a lingering shot of a flock of birds and caught myself thinking: oh no, Upstream Color, run! But not long into One and Two, teenager Eva (Kiernan Shipka), living with her family on a secluded farm, takes a clear, direct action that teleports her out of Shane Carruth territory: really, she teleports, like she’s in the mutant-origins sequence of an X-Men movie. Her brother Zac (Timothée Chalamet) has the same power, which their mother (Elizabeth Reaser) mostly accepts and their father (Grant Bowler) fears, banning it from their modest home and even blaming it for their mother’s frequent seizures.

It could just be my movie-addled brain, but I couldn’t stop firing off reference points during One and Two: from Carruth to X-Men to YA (Reaser also plays mom in the Twilight series) to Terrence Malick, whose round-robin narration style pops up to augment the half-gothic, half-picturesque environment. It’s all quite dreamlike, which we know because Eva’s narration describes it as such. Director Andrew Droz Palermo has lots of credits as a cinematographer, and his care with the camera shows. But his compositions also sometimes feel a little, well, composed: fussy and arranged without the iconic boldness that often accompanies teenagers practicing their superpowers. That’s how the movie treats superpowers in general: respectfully holding back real imagination. How, when, and why Eva and Zac deploy their power don’t have much rhyme or reason, at least not any I could decode. Ultimately, the movie feels as fenced-in as the farmhouse (surrounded by a mysterious wall) where much of it takes place.

Even when Eva unexpectedly ventures outside of her family home, the action raises more questions, and not of the knotty or philosophical variety. Mostly logistical ones, about how long she’s had these powers, why she rarely seems to use them beyond the shortest of distances, and what she wants beyond the freedom to teleport around the ol’ swimming hole with Zac. Back at the farm, Palermo captures the father’s roiling fear of his own offspring’s power; a harrowing and vivid idea, but nothing that really deepens or develops. Throughout, the movie reaches for poetry and only achieves middling prose.

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