Third Person (2013)

Third Person

Three unconnected stories of three couples in three cities – New York, Paris and Rome – are interwoven in a surprising way.

Third Person

Four Rooms by Alexa Dalby

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Liam Neeson is Michael, the first of the ultimately interlinked characters we meet. He’s a writer hunched gruffly over his typewriter, struggling with his latest novel in a darkened Paris hotel room. His beautiful but unstable younger lover Anna (Olivia Wilde) arrives from New York with the draft of her novel and they play out an emotionally sado-masochistic scenario. Adrien Brody is Scott, a shady American fashion spy on a business trip in Rome. He meets a mysterious and seductive Roma woman (Monika, played by Moran Atias) in a backstreet bar and they bond over Limoncello, until a bomb scare separates them and he finds the bag she left behind. A message left on the pad on the desk in the Paris hotel room is picked up in a New York hotel room by the maid who is cleaning it – erratic, failed ex-soap star Julia (Mila Kunis), now running late for a court hearing in the custody battle for her son from her successful artist husband Rick (James Franco) and his new partner. This is the first sign that something is going on that will link these characters.

From then on, the stories of these three couples continue to unfold, at first with no obvious connection. Only the occasional bleed from one story to another – flowers put in a hotel room in one continent turn up on another continent – hints there’s a connection. Gradually, themes emerge. Love and loss. Lies and guilt. Characters in each of the stories have lost a child, or are trying to find a child. A ghostly child’s voice recurs saying “Watch me”. The stories contrast different kinds of love and obsession – the sexual obsession of Michael, still dealing with the break-up of his marriage, and Anna, dealing with the secret in her life; Scott’s fascination with Monika, even though he suspects she’s made him the victim of her scam; and Julia’s slapdash, desperate love for her son which leads her to fall into a horrible trap of breach of trust set by her husband.

The director is Paul Haggis, whose Crash similarly used interlinked stories (lives colliding on the Los Angeles freeway) and was much praised, winning Oscars for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay amongst others in 2006. However, reviews where Third Person has been released so far have been critical. Trying to work out how the three stories will eventually intersect, as the structure implies, is intriguing, as are the initial scenarios we are presented with, and can make up for any lack of depth of characterisation or likeability in the characters.

The film seems overlong – but then it is telling fragments of three stories, each of which could have the germ of a film in itself. The connection between them can be inferred before too long – a creative writer trapped in his private world will use facets of his personality to create fictional characters. It’s a clever idea, and very enjoyable in places, but it doesn’t quite come off and after the high emotion and drama the characters have been wrenched through, the resolution feels sadly anti-climactic.

Third Person is released on 14th November 2014 in the UK

Join the discussion