Rock Paper Scissors (Piedra, Papel, Y Tijera).
Rock Paper Scissors is a slow burn psychological thriller from Macarena Garcia Lenzi and Martin Blousson. Set in modern Argentina, the film is intentionally claustrophobic; exploring agoraphobia, mental illness, and the trap that we all experience; the mind, except this mental jigsaw puzzle is much more sinister than overthinking.
The film revolves around three siblings. Maria Jose (Valeria Giorcelli,) Jesus (Pablo Sigal,) and their estranged step-sister Magdalena (Agustina Cervino.) From the opening scene of the film we are introduced to Maria’s obsession with “The Wizard of Oz” (1939.) With the house serving as her mind-trap, Maria drifts off into a fantasy world where she is Dorothy Gale, far removed from reality and living an alternate life inside her head.
In a disturbing biblical allegory Maria, one can assume the name was drawn from a comparison to the virgin Mary is nearly incestual with Jesus, who, in a biblical sense, would be her son. Enter Maria and Jesus’s step-sister Magdalena, whom I assumed to be named after Mary Magdalene, serving as the sacrificial lamb to Maria and Jesus’s mental conditions and mind games.
After a freak accident, Magdalena falls down the stairs rendering her immobile and at the mercy of Maria to tend to her. What ensues is really full on DSM-5, and I couldn’t quite grasp what to make of the tension, or why it was happening. The film never really fully explored who each character was or how their past traumas’ shaped them into the dynamic that was created. I knew there was a more existential question that was burning in the undercurrent, but I never quite understood what it was.
Visually speaking, I have not felt so walled-in viewing a film since watching “Buried” (2010.) Though the square footage of the Rock, Paper, and Scissors house is significantly larger than the casket Ryan Reynolds is trapped in in “Buried” I still felt creeped out and stifled. The cinematography, by DP Nicolas Colledani, successfully added to the effect. The use of close-ups and tight two-shots became a character in and of itself, stitching the story together with much needed visual fluidity.
Overall this film has all the inner workings of something great, there are shades of “Misery” (1990,) “Crimson Peak” (2015,) and even the famed existential play by Jean-Paul Sartre “No Exit” (1944.) Though interesting philosophical allegories are at work here and are great stand alone elements, when they fill the 83 minute run time they feel incongruent and jumbled.
Their meaning is somehow lost, and the film never quite reaches the notes of a terse psychological thriller, furthermore I see no elements of the advertised black comedy. Though, if you are a fan of slow tension thrillers, this one may be right for you. Not a masterclass in the genre, but a valiant effort.
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