Rock, Paper And Scissors

**1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Rock, Paper And Scissors
"Most interesting for its nicely balanced performances." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

They say that familiarity breeds contempt. Siblings Maria Jose (Valeria Giorcelli) and Jesus (Pablo Sigal) have buried theirs, managing to coexist in close proximity since childhood. Is this because thy have simply avoided changing during that time? Maria Jose loves The Wizard Of Oz, has a guinea pig named Toto and manages her emotions through play. Jesus dreams of becoming a filmmaker, making short home movies with Toto as the star. But there is a serious side to their life. Maria Jose has spent many months providing full time care to their ailing father, who recently died after falling down the stairs. Still more disruptive than this loss, however, is the arrival of their half sister, Magdalena (Augustina Cervino).

To Magdalena, the situation is very simple. There are three of them so each is entitled to a third of the inheritance. As little remains by way of liquid assets, due to the cost of supporting the old man, the logical thing to do is to sell the house. It doesn't seem to occur to her that her siblings have no other home and might lack the skill to obtain one, or that Maria Jose might be owed something for her labour. There's a clear imbalance of power here - until Magdalena takes a tumble down the stairs herself.

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Did somebody push her? That's never entirely clear. She certainly thinks so, accusing Maria Jose even whilst she lies in bed, immobile and swathed in bandages, with Maria Jose taking care of her - and we begin to understand why these family members were out of touch prior to the bereavement. There are many secrets still to emerge, however. Magdalena. effectively a prisoner, gradually realises that her brother is also seriously troubled, and that her best hope of escape is likely to come from playing off her siblings against each other. Each of the characters has sympathetic moments ad moments of unconsciously appalling behaviour as the balance of power shifts between them, as between the objects in the title (which is a literal translation from the original Spanish.

Thematically, the film has a good deal in common with Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, and this is reflected in a set carefully designed to display the accumulated clutter of lives lived entirely in one building, with décor whose age is signalled in contrast to Magdalena's mobile phone and contemporary clothes. There's a sense here of the past, of toxic childhood, holding onto the half sister, its own weight trapping her in the house. That this is a first film, however, is all too apparent in other ways. Though the dialogue is sharp-edged and there are plenty of twists and turns, the overall pace is slow - it makes its central point and doesn't really have much to say thereafter. There's little sense of emotional movement and too much is attributed to vaguely conceptualised madness whilst the more interesting aspects of the characters' motivation are underdeveloped.

Most interesting for its nicely balanced performances - and the sterling efforts of the guinea pig - Rock, Paper And Scissors will appeal strongly to some viewers who have bitter family backgrounds of their own, but ultimately it feels too contrived to reach beyond that. There's some amiable black humour but too little substance.

Reviewed on: 06 Jul 2021
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Jesus and Maria José live together in the grand house that belonged to their recently deceased father. Their playful routine is disrupted when Magdalena, their half-sister on their dad’s side, returns from Spain asking for her part of the inheritance which they have no intention of sharing.

Director: Macarena García Lenzi, Martín Blousson

Starring: Pablo Sigal, Valeria Giorcelli, Agustina Cerviño

Year: 2019

Runtime: 83 minutes

Country: Argentina


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