Thursday, June 16, 2011

SFF Review: Three (Tom Tykwer, 2010)

Perhaps it was the fact that Three was my third straight screening of the day and was viewed following Project Nim and A Separation, but I really struggled to dedicate my interest to Tom Tykwer's new film. It took some time to become acquainted with the peculiar style this film adopts, the rather confusing opening minutes and the uneven mix of romantic comedy and erotic drama that ensues haphazardly and in predictable fashion.

Tykwer is also a filmmaker whose films I am yet to be rapt in either. His biggest international hit is without a doubt Run Lola Run (1998), but his most recent cinematic endeavours have been Perfume: Story of a Murderer (2006) and The International (2009). The former being a film I disliked immensely. Why did I consider seeing this film in the first place? Well, considering Tykwer is a well regarded filmmaker, I thought I'd give him another go.

Three follows an incisive journalist and talk show host, Hanna (Sophie Rois) and a sculptural engineer, Simon (Sebastian Schipper), whose long-term relationship is faltering through individual pressures (the death of Simon's mother) and familiarity. It has reached a 'going-through-the-motions' plateau. With mutual smarts and a shared sense of humour, their relationship is now more about companionship that passion. When Simon discovers he has testicular cancer and is scheduled for immediate surgery, Hanna is unreachable to provide the support he needs. She returns home in the morning to find the house empty and Simon in hospital. The reason for her absence is an infatuation and the start of an ongoing affair with a medical researcher named Adam (Devid Striesow).

Following Simon's release from hospital, he starts to get his strength back by taking up swimming. It is at a Berlin hydro pool that he coincidentally meets Adam, unbeknownst to his ongoing affair with Hanna. The pair chat casually and race each other before Simon realises where his true sexual desires lie after an encounter with Adam in the locker room. Adam starts splitting his time between both Hanna and Simon, with the three remaining oblivious to each other's affairs, and forced into a web of deception to keep that way. Ultimately it reaches a breaking point.

The film is quite successful in deftly balancing the lives of the three characters, taking an interest in their intellect and their personal desires. It tries every stylistic trick in the book, a split screen montage for example, to make this relatively simple menage-a-trois story seem more complex than it really is. This comes across as quite contrived at times. While there are some very amusing moments, some quite shocking erotic situations and moving performances from the talented cast, Three is messy, disorganised and altogether forgettable.

My Rating: 2 Stars (D)


  1. So does the slump continue for Tykwer? I've been interested in his work though I couldn't get into The International and I haven't seen Perfume.

  2. Yeah, it does. I liked this better than 'Perfume' but it's certainly one to skip.

  3. I loved Run Lola Run but have never bothered to check out his later works.
    This one seems terribly bland, I'll probably skip it.

    Great review Andy, very useful as I had heard absolutely nothing about this film before reading this!

  4. A film is "unforgettable" and receives such a poor rating ... what am I missing here.

  5. Wow. That's an error! Certainly 'forgettable'.

  6. I liked The Perfume, but I didn't make it farther than the first 15 minutes of The International... I've already skipped Three (it was running in our cinema).