After watching Third Person for the first time, a series of emotions and feelings hit: shock, wonder, awe being just a limited few of them. Some people will definitely be let down by the ending but I think that it was delicately done. Writer/director Paul Haggis (whose Crash won three Oscars in 2006 including Best Picture) should congratulate himself immensely, including a huge pat on the back.
Haggis’s film has a complete all-star cast with Liam Neeson at its core, dropping the Taken attitude and developing a romantic heart in the form of novelist Michael. He is in love with the idea of love and portrays his various feelings through the characters in his books. He is a literary genius but has writer’s block which he's unable to break through until his muse Anna, played by Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy) meets him in Paris.
This pair forms one of the three interlinked love stories which spread as wide as Paris, Rome and New York. The second one is in the shape of Julia (Mila Kunis) and ex-husband Rick (James Franco), based in the big apple. Julia is accused of having done something terrible in her past which has led her to not being able to see her son, the one person she loves dearly with all her heart. The third and final couple are Scott played by Oscar winner Adrien Brody (The Pianist) and Monika (Moran Atias). Scott is trying to get home from Italy when he meets Monika in a downtown bar; he becomes involved with her because she is beautiful, and is then drawn into something beyond his depths.
The two actors who stand out are Mila Kunis and Olivia Wilde. They will completely take your breath away with their incredible performance of two tortured women. Both are so dragged down by what they have experienced that they are on the brink of madness.
Mila Kunis has truly stepped up her game, showing that she can play a character that has a huge depth to her. Julia has lost something she feels so passionate about that she might break; although in the end she does what is best. Before Third Person, Kunis was known for TV sitcom That 70's Show, the romantic comedies and playing the ugly sister in Family Guy. Yes, she was skilled in The Book of Eli, however this is a different kind of performance – one that proves she is capable of from beginning to end.
Olivia Wilde also plays Anna extremely well. Herd is a complicated character, if not the most complicated one out of the entire ensemble. She is an attractive journalist who knows exactly what she wants and with a reputation she will protect no matter who she has in her bed. That person being Michael. Her relationship with him is difficult in itself. She is the lover: the other woman. Nevertheless, she secretly throws a fit of jealous rage when Michael’s estranged wife is on the phone with him.
Before you know it though, her mood has switched again to a fun, carefree woman who doesn’t have a care in the world. Sometimes, it is hard to keep up as she plays the game so much. When Michael tells her he loves her, she breaks down into a mess of tears. There is a darker side to her story which won’t be spoiled here. Shock and understanding are resulted reactions to her present actions.
The film's editing also must be applauded. There is an eased continuance that flows from character to character, city to city. In one scene, you are in Rome, the next Paris, and the one after in New York. Nevertheless, you don’t feel as though you’ve jumped into a completely different story. Each begins again from where it left off the last time. One of the sequences that is brilliantly executed in the film is when Anna gets out of bed, then reaches down to grab something in a close up. When the camera pulls back, it is Julia who moves out of focus with a similar article in her hand. It then swiftly cuts to Anna once more – a brief continuum which is visually pleasing.
From beginning to end this is a complete rollercoaster – not just of emotions, but also because you cannot anticipate what is around the corner. There is a ransom, dark secrets, a brutal accident, the death of a child, incest and more. For barely over two hours, there's a lot to digest. However, this is done with precision and it does not feel as if Third Person is overly packed with drama, thus not forcing your brain to explode from the various storylines.
Looking back, I can see the clues that lead to the grand finale, but will you be able to see them?
Third Person is available on DVD from March 23rd