Opening to the sounds of The Wizard Of Oz, Argentinian film Rock Paper, And Scissors (Piedra, papel y tijera)—a claustrophobic dark comedy-thriller hybrid—feels more like Alice’s bizzaro trip down the rabbit hole than Dorothy’s jaunt down the yellow-brick road.
After an adulthood spent in Spain, Magdelena (Agustina Cerviño) has returned to her family in Argentina following the death of her estranged father. Here she is reunited with her dysfunctional half-siblings María Jose (Valeria Giorcelli) and Jesús (Pablo Sigal), who both call their dank family apartment home. But this awkward family reunion is set to be a short one. Magdalena is focused on settling her father’s affairs, including her inheritance, and getting back to her life as an actress in Europe—much to the dismay of her family.
When an accident renders Magdalena immobile, she must rely on the care from her siblings, whose inter-personal dynamic hovers somewhere between weird, delusional and downright terrifying. Trapped in her dead father’s old room, Magdalena’s situation becomes far more desperate as time passes.
With elements of Misery, Grey Gardens and the excellent Shrew’s Nest, this minimalist feature is a tightly-wound chamber piece filled with tension and menace from its central trio. The siblings are wholly incompatible and, like in a game of rock, paper, scissors, each can only defeat the other based on the hand that has been played. Locked into a single space, the claustrophobic atmosphere is expertly drawn out by co-directors Martín Blousson and Macarena García Lenzi. The three stars are perfectly cast in their roles, each playing off one another’s strengths.
An overall slow burn, the pacing works well once we’re well into the story even if the relationship-building in the film’s opening feels rushed in comparison. With a runtime under 90 minutes, there was space to draw out the early stages of their reunion to make the abrupt and shocking transition into the story even more terrifying.
Despite the heavy dread and claustrophobia that settles over the film, there are moments of humour here too. María Jose’s obsession with The Wizard Of Oz and Jesús’ desire to make a film that resembles a Giallo nightmare—with flying keys and menacing guinea pigs—provide some levity.
Unnerving and affecting, the film might not quite deliver on its promise of deep psychological terror but nevertheless, it’s a solid exploration of the genre from these two Argentinian filmmakers.
Rock, Paper And Scissors is available on digital release July 6.