Imagine if Terrence Malick made an ‘X-Men’ movie on a shoestring budget and you’ve got a decent sense of what director Andrew Droz Palermo has accomplished this contemplative supernatural teen drama.
Set in idyllic middle-American farm country, the film introduces us to teenage brother and sister Zac (Timothée Chalamet) and Eva (Kiernan Shipka), who tend to the family’s chickens and wear potato-sack clothing like any normal nineteenth-century kids. But the plane they spy flying overhead suggests that they may not be in the nineteenth-century, and the envy with which they watch the aircraft move through the sky suggests that they’ve never been allowed to venture beyond the massive wall that rings their land like a stiff collar. We’re never told who built the barrier – all signs point to the kids’ violently domineering father (Grant Bowler) – but it soon becomes obvious why: Eva and Zac can teleport to any place they can see.
The nature of their gift remains a mystery. Director Palermo, whose only previous feature, ‘Rich Hill’, was a sobering doc about American poverty, makes a smooth transition to fiction, and his affinity for naturalism prevents ‘One and Two’ from slipping into the territory of tired YA fantasy. Unfortunately, this allegory for the process by which kids start to think for themselves only hints at the turbulence of its characters, who are kept at too far a remove for us to feel their growing pains.