Films about twins are few and far between and have had mixed results. David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers stands out, Brian de Palma’s Sisters doesn’t, and this little beauty nails them all. Written, directed and starring the Polish brothers, Twin Falls Idaho is a remarkable debut, pro-vocative, curiously erotic, atmospheric and downright special.
The cojoined twins (Siamese in the old lexicon) of the title are brothers, their surname is Falls and they are in Idaho for reasons not immediately clear. The mystery slowly unravels, and while it would mar the film to spell it all out, suffice to say a search for roots and a preparation for major events unfurl. Part of the film’s charm is the way in which director Michael Polish unravels his story with with a finesse worthy of David Lynch; whispered information is fed in delicate episodes that carry tension superbly.
And though Polish and Polish begin their film in Lynchian style trawling the underworld for examples of the greater truth, it soon evolves into an altogether less weird experience, subtle and thought-provoking in its attempt to get to grips with these two boys. As Penny (Michele Hicks), a prostitute who comes to know them, starts to fall in love with one of the brothers, all manner of interesting questions arise, from the practical (who’s got the plumbing?) to the profound. The film ends up exploring notions of loneliness, togetherness, intimacy, caring and incarceration in ways that have rarely been seen on celluloid.
The performances from the Polish brothers are magnificent, and while the degrees of intimacy they achieve might be expected from real-life twins, the nuanced differences between the two reflect pure acting brilliance. Their competence shows up the frankly crappy performance from Hicks as the hooker with a heart of gold. Only a crack-whore wardrobe and the tie-one-on make-up saves her from sinking this character (and the film) entirely. The music is first rate, and if you ignore the lame ‘twin” and ‘two” metaphors littering the place (more Lynch), it’ll rate as a Best of 2001 experience. Oh, and take hankies.