`Twin Falls Idaho' proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that love stories do indeed come in every shape, size and form. This low budget, independent film actually tells two love stories: one between two brothers conjoined together from birth and the other between them and a golden-hearted prostitute who befriends them.
This movie is an obvious labor of love on the part of the filmmakers. Writer/director Michael Polish and his real life identical twin brother, Mark, who co-wrote the screenplay, also star as Francis and Blake Falls, a pair of Siamese twins who, on their birthday, order up a hooker played by newcomer Michelle Hicks. Though initially frightened away by the `freakishness' of the situation, the young lady, Penny, finds herself growing attached to these two painfully quiet and withdrawn young men who seem to have a strange symbiotic relationship she is unable to comprehend but which, in some strange way, speaks to a yearning for companionship lodged deep within her own troubled soul. The film becomes a moving study of three social outcasts groping towards each other for support and affirmation.
In many ways, the most striking aspect of the film is the quiet, hushed tone it uses to unfold a drama that could, by its very nature, easily succumb to cheap sensationalism and exploitation. Blake and Francis, so long conditioned by a lifetime of societal rejection to draw into themselves and stay conveniently out of sight, have created a private universe where they barely ever speak above a whisper. Penny, herself lost in a cold, uncaring world, seems instinctively drawn to the innate goodness and politeness of the two men and she quickly learns to look beyond the physical difference that has served as a barrier between them and so many others. The film also does not go for the obvious choices one might expect in a work about misunderstood social outcasts; it, wisely, refrains from ladling on emotionally manipulative scenes in which people stare rudely at the pair or in which opportunistic exploiters work their wiles on the boys. Although the film does touch on both those issues in a minor way, the primary focus always remains the relationship that is developing among the three main characters. There is a haunting sequence in which Blake, the healthier and more physically robust of the two, in a fit of pent-up frustration, actually attempts to pull away from Francis - emotionally if not quite physically. But Blake realizes that he and his brother are fated to go through eternity together one way or the other and that he really would not want it any other way. Indeed, this is as much a love story about two brothers as it is about two men and a woman.
As the Siamese twins, the Polish brothers achieve a remarkable triumph on the level of sheer physicality, somehow convincing us, by their movements and mannerisms, that they really are two people sharing the same body. More impressively, they bring a beautifully understated pathos to their interactions both with each other and the people with whom they come in contact. Ditto for Michelle Hicks who effectively conveys the compassionate understanding that brings a rare ray of light to the otherwise dark world in which the boys live out their secret life.
One could argue that `Twin Falls Idaho' hedges its bets by portraying a pair of Siamese twins with which no audience would have any trouble falling in love. And, perhaps, there is something to be said for that criticism. A more courageous film might have shown us a slightly more combative, angered or embittered pair, one which struck out at an unreasoningly prejudiced and cruel world in ways that might make them less palatable to us and therefore much harder to like. Perhaps. Yet, as the first film that I can ever remember even having the nerve to tackle such a risky subject, `Twin Falls Idaho,' in its call for tolerance and understanding, deserves all the kudos it has rightfully received.