Rock, Paper and, Scissors had its world premiere at Frightfest in 2019. The Final Girls Berlin Film Festival screened it as part of their line up for 2020. What I was expecting was a film about three siblings who utilize the kid’s game of Rock Paper Scissors to play out a deadly game of ‘who gets the inheritance.’ What I was presented with instead was an entirely different story. Family skeletons and secrets aplenty but not much meat to the story.
A single location Spanish language film, the narrative begins with a brother and sister watching The Wizard of Oz as they hear a knock at the door. Neither wants to answer it and to determine who should go, a brief game ensues the winner gets up. Strangely this is the last game of Rock Paper and Scissors to be played. Instead, the story here wants to speak to the heart of family skeletons and rivaling jealousy between siblings. It’s confusing and paced in a way where you’re always searching for the big reveal but never fully satiated by the time you get to it.
Rock Paper and Scissors
A father dies. His carers were his two children Jesús and Maria, who seem to have an unhealthy attachment to one another. When their estranged sister, Magdalena, returns to simply divvy up the remaining assets, things seem tense. At their insistence, Magdalena stays one night but is all business and no emotion. She seems unscathed at the news of her father’s passing or scared of the brother-sister duo in front of her. It’s not long before a hellish tumble down a large flight of stairs proves something is amiss.
Maria prays at the foot of a bandaged and unconscious Magdalena. When she finally awakens, both Maria and Jesús tell her a doctor has been to visit, everything is fine and she is lucky to be alive. Between bouts of caregivers and entertainment, the two have obvious designs on what will happen to Magdalena.
Background stories are stretched far. The sinister side of both Jesús and Maria are kept under wraps for far too long. For at least three-quarters of the film, the caretaker’s role they assign to themselves consists of bizarre jokes, namecalling, and weird behavior. When details of whose trauma was the most damaging finally come to light, it’s hard to care. When things turn vicious quite suddenly, it’s all a little too late. What should be a character-driven story is painfully thinned by disjointed attempts to string the viewer along. Horror tropes of this nature would normally work except that opening scenes clearly point to a pretty big rift. Despite this, all the players pretend there isn’t one except for some stiff indifference. It stifles the very nature of what should be a tense and unpredictable time.
Piedra, Papel y Tijera
To give you an example; as Magdalena’s recovery begins a scene between Maria and her bedridden patient plot the points of discontent. Maria brings her some tea and crackers. At this point, Magdalena has been trapped inside the house for some time. The bandages have been removed from her face. She attempts to drink the tea herself, much to the disapproval of her minder. She pointedly sips the tea and in response, Maria tips the remainder over her crackers before asking if she would like to eat them later. As a point of reference, the tonal shift from this to Maria drugging her and cutting off her toes simply doesn’t flow right.
What the film does well comes from the cinematography and use of muted colors throughout. The performances of the cast mesh perfectly with what’s required for a story like this. Unassuming demeanor presented through stoic and underlying crazy. I enjoyed the characters much more than I did the way the story fits together.
I give Rock, Paper and, Scissors
2 make the slippers fit out of 5
The Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2020 runs from February 3rd to 6th. For more details please see the website.
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