Argentine helmer Martin Rejtman makes a predictably unpredictable return to features after a 10-year hiatus with “Two Shots Fired,” a nearly uncategorizable seriocomedy whose string of non sequiturs oddly mimics life’s implausibilities, without the emotion. Opening with a teen’s unmotivated attempt at self-destruction, which illogically engenders no physical consequences, the pic picks up on various family members and their extended circles, dropping storylines and characters with studied disregard for narrative arcs. Rejtman (“Rapado,” “The Magic Gloves”) doesn’t really go anywhere with the concept, yet there’s enough skill and amusement to hold fest audiences.
Surprisingly, given the deliberate removal of feeling or passion, viewers become attached to this likable group of people. Mariano (Rafael Federman), 16, comes home after dancing all night, mows the lawn, finds a gun in the tool shed, takes it to his bedroom and shoots himself twice, once in the head, once in the stomach. In this absurdist world, he’s barely injured. His mother, Susana (Susana Pampin), removes all sharp objects around the house, though Mariano says he’s neither anxious nor depressed: It was hot that day, and he did it on impulse.
Mariano plays the wooden flute with an early music quartet, but the possible presence of a bullet in his body is giving him a doubled sound (his fellow players are largely understanding). Following his birthday party, Mariano, his brother Ezequiel (Benjamin Coehlo) and new friend Ana (Camila Fabbri) go to the beach; later, Mariano makes a date with Lucia (Manuela Martelli), who then rents a room from Susana and joins the musical ensemble. After taking three pills and sleeping for 72 hours, Susana goes on a beach trip with music teacher Margarita (Laura Paredes); they’re joined by Liliana (Daniela Pal), who needs a place to sleep.
Providing any more plot detail would be superfluous other than to provide credit info for the actors, since the storyline is like a series of baton passes, each one with only a tenuous connection to what came before. Rejtman’s goal, it would seem, is to draw attention to life’s random trajectories — drastic acts don’t necessarily need to have consequences, and every story is like a limitless vine whose roots and tendrils mingle with others in unpredictable ways. The only concrete effect of Mariano’s shooting is the disappearance of the family dog and the doubled sound the teen plays his flute; all else could or could not have followed from this ultimately insignificant act.
Of course, only fest audiences will go along with the irrationality of “Two Shots Fired,” and even then many will be looking for a more meaningful statement than simply: Life happens. The problem isn’t the absence of thematic cohesiveness but the lack of development — once the initial concept becomes clear, Rejtman doesn’t do anything more with what he’s built, and certain scenes, like Liliana’s need for a bathroom, go on too long. Fortunately, there’s a great deal of humor built in to the characters, whose instability has a certain endearing quality.
Given how things simply happen without manipulation, Rejtman predictably prefers an observational approach, and lensing is largely composed of fixed shots and clear-cut images. The most remarkable aspect of “Two Shots Fired” is that, despite the distancing effect of the artificial performances and simplified, almost basic visuals, viewers manage to find enough diversion and attachment to care.