Directed by the award-winning hand of Paul Haggis, Third Person weaves the well-trodden, everything-is-connected story platform across three iconic cities.
With a star-studded cast led by the broad and altogether looming shoulders of Liam Neeson, Third Person presents us with three very different stories that on the face of it, are bound together by an as-yet-unseen thread. With international boundaries blurred, the promise of a single catalyst acts as a very tantalising carrot as the stories unfold.
Neeson acts as the key pivot from his smoky, red-wine-fuelled Paris hotel room. As he works – hunched on his newest novel – his muse (Olivia Wilde) provides an alluring and slightly unhinged presence. Meanwhile in Rome, slick-haired business man (Adrien Brody) encounters a troubled woman (Moran Atias) by chance in a seedy dive bar. On the other side of the Atlantic in New York, a rich artist (James Franco) looks after a boy whose estranged mother (Mila Kunis) is struggling to come to terms with her life as a hotel maid.
From the outset, Haggis peppers a number of scenes with subtle crossover clues that keep you guessing as to what exactly might be tying these three narratives together. From motorcyclists and flowers through to hand-written notes, it’s easy to get lost in the game of trying to solve the mystery and subsequently lose track of three sprawling plot lines.
Each parallel narrative has its own merits, but also pitfalls. The relationship between Michael (Neeson) and Anna (Wilde) is cruel, callous and spiteful yet at its heart is a compelling and fractured reality. Likewise In New York, the battle between Rick (Franco) and Julia (Kunis) is framed in the context of a dark and distressing past that’s unveiled with genuine power. However, as events in Rome develop into a wildly clumsy, far-fetched plot involving Sean (Brody) and Monika (Atias), this third story feels like an afterthought when juxtaposed with two emotionally raw realities.
Third Person has a number of distinct themes at work, manifested through characters and plots that are a mixed bag of believable and baffling. The actors are due credit for keeping this film in the main watchable. But as the final act unravels one outrageous revelation after another, you cannot help but feel let down. Ultimately, I was left with the distinct feeling that focusi ng on one of the three stories may have proved a more credible result for Haggis. Instead, an anti-climax of fairly exasperating proportions is the sum of one-too-many dramatic arcs.