Hanna (Sophie Rois) and Simon (Sebastian Schipper) are a more-or-less happy couple in their 40s – professional, successful, and comfortable together even if the spark has long since fled the building. Living under a constant cloud of aging, dying and general new-millennium malaise, first Sophie then Simon independently meet and fall for Adam (Devid Striesow), who awakens in each of them a new lust for life and perhaps a new outlook on our times and society as a whole – for them, and for all of us.
At first glance, this small, rather quiet, chamber-ish comedy/drama seems an odd choice for Tom Tykwer, the man who brought us, just under a decade and a half ago, the explosive and game-changing Run Lola Run; on deeper reflection, however, all of Tykwer’s previous films (the ones I’ve seen, anyway), when viewed from a certain angle, have been centrally concerned with the changing world around us, whether it be in the global political landscape (Heaven), power and morality (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer), the far-reaching role of banks and the new economy (The International), or even in our very conceptions of past/present and life/death themselves (Run Lola Run, The Princess and the Warrior). In context, writing and directing a story about the changing models of sex/romance/and-yes-even-love in our time, even one as “small” as this one, makes quite a bit of sense, and while it features little of the sweeping visual trickery of his previous movies, Tykwer does manage to sneak a few surprising shots and fun moments into what could have easily been a simple, soapy, Euro-movie-of-the-week.
A movie like 3 typically lives or dies by its casting, and here we are lucky enough to have solid performances from all three of our leads, particularly from Sebastian Schipper, whose transformation in the middle of the movie is more than merely physical. All three of the leads, in fact, are transformed through the course of the movie, some of their changes quite jarring, but often making us wonder what may (or may not) have been there in plain sight all along (and if not, why not?).
Given how complicated these characters are (or how complicated they’re hinted at being), I unfortunately found the resolution of the plot a bit too easy and far too quick. I also found some of the scenes of nearly Three’s Company-level farce took me right out of the movie (though yes, I did laugh).
In the end, 3 is a bit more honest and emotionally “real” than we might be used to from movies, but not as deep as we’d like. I actually wish that the movie began where it ended – the story of how people get together is usually the more dramatic and funny story, but the story of how they stay together (if they do) and make it work (if they can), especially in so-called “alternative relationships”, is to me far more interesting.
Note: this movie has one very graphic surgery scene and several depictions of some pretty frank sexuality; anyone at all squeamish about either of these things has been fairly warned.