New York, Paris and Rome are the Backdrop for Paul Haggis’ Film, “Third Person” Posing as an Espionage Thriller with an Intimate Secret By Steve V. Rodriguez

Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde. photo credit: Maria Malin   

In Paul Haggis’ new film, “Third Person”, which just premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Oscar winner who won best screenplay and picture for “Crash”, revisits similar themes of inter-connectedness and the search for love. In “Crash” the seemingly divergent and varied walks of life living in an isolated, Los Angeles, are all seeking a connection and ultimately come together affecting the future of each other’s lives. In “Third Person”, Haggis creates an espionage backdrop, transporting the viewer back and forth from New York, Paris and Rome,  to witness three seemingly divergent worlds. As the viewer grows increasingly invested and committed to the outcome of all three stories, questions of where all of this is heading surprise through intricate weaving, having the viewer wonder if she always had all of the facts and information right underneath her nose.

Our story begins with Michael (Liam Neeson) who’s stuck in a hotel room in Paris,  with cigarette and drink, struggling with writer’s block to come up with his current book. Later we learn in a meeting,  with Michael and his book publisher, that he hasn’t written an equally brilliant book since his first installment, and the rest have been subpar. From conversations with his wife, played with conviction by Kim Basinger, we learn that she wants Michael to come home, but she’s also aware of his current affair with Anna. Anna checks into the same hotel as Michael, only opts for separate rooms, indicating a strained love affair between the two. Anna and Michael dance around intimacy,  and the consequences of getting too close, thus indicating the complexities of their relationship, as it relates to their own personal demons.

In New York, Rick (James Franco) and Sam (Loan Chabanol) live together and are raising Rick’s son, whom he shares with Julia, played by the

Writer/Director Paul Haggis

Writer/Director Paul Haggis Photo: Maria Malin

always mesmerizing and compelling, Mila Kunis. We learn that Julia is trying to get  her life back together by getting a job in a hotel as a cleaning lady, while working with her laywer (Maria Bello) to be allowed to see her son. One of the hardest and chilling scenes to watch is when Julia begs Rick to see her son, which sheds light on why she lost custody in the  first place. The dramatic scene, which incorporates  slow motion to convey a mother’s desperation,  is heart breaking.

In Rome an American fashion designer, Sean, played by Adrien Brody, is in town to obtain blueprints to knock off high-end designs. He gets involved in an attractive woman’s (Moran Atias) quest to reunite with her daughter, only the fee to make this happen, seems to increase the more time he spends with her. Through conversations on the phone with his wife, Theresa (Maria Bello), we learn that their relationship is severed, stemming from an unforgivable act by Sean, that Theresa will never forget. In Rome, Sean finds solace and distraction in Monika’s (Atias) drama,  and decides to help her, thus risking his own life. “Third Person” features one of the most passionate love scenes between Brody and Atias,  that involves and begins with touch, eliciting a truly sensual love scene, in an otherwise disconnected deck of characters.

Through beautiful cinematography by Gian Filippo Corticelli, who  weaves through some of the most romantic and exciting cities of the world, to calculated editing by Jo Francis,  which allows the viewer to get closer to the truth, while increasing our investment into these complex characters. Just as the storyline propels forward and we learn more, Francis redirects our focus to another city. This mind f#ck with the audience is intriguing and also made possible due to rich and layered music by Dario Marianelli, which helps advance the storyline,  and keep the audience on this roller coaster of a film.

Haggis has done it again to assemble a power packed cast who’s seemingly focused secular storylines,  manage to converge  and intersect to surprising, and mind blowing heights. Casting actors at the top of their game to tell these intricate stories, allows Haggis to create a larger overall canvas to place his characters into a twisted web, thus leading us to the final truth.

Watch the trailer below for “Third Person”.