Paul Haggis's Third person is a movie that purposefully intends to reveal nothing by pointing to everything. White roses, a flying note, a bike, a painting, a line are recurring liaison moments that puncture the multi-stranded narrative. It is leading the viewer towards some great denouement only to leave him puzzled.
Third person feels as if Paul Haggis had three movie ideas in his mind but got too lazy to spin off each separately so he went for this unfortunate melange. It remotely reminded me of other films of the same structure and similar stories that had the same hard time selling, talking, walking themselves into the minds of the viewer: 360, Hereafter or Movie 43. It has some clear ideas in mind about fate, betrayal, loss or pain, yet it fails to render the stories fluid as if they wanted to keep rewriting themselves constantly.
The writer, rich and a Pulitzer winner (Liam Neeson) leaves his wife (Kim Basinger) to go to Paris and write his next book. His protégé and lover, young journalist Anna (Olivia Wilde) joins him for a passionate and chaotic affair. In the next story set in Rome, a sleazy business man named Sean (Adrien Brody) falls for a Romanian gypsy girl with an agenda to rip him off the money she needs to save her eight-year-old daughter from the hands of a trafficker. Back in New York, an instable former actress (Mila Kunis) is fighting her artist ex-husband (James Franco) for the custody of their eight-year-old boy. Children or parents are the objects of aching in this movie, rather in their absence, death or alleged existence or in the way they inflict pain on their offsprings. White roses are a pledge of beauty rather than a sign of trust. They fail to express the sincerity of the sender and mirror back on his own lack of trust in his own abilities and the people in his life, There are also some lines in the movie that synthesize some of the main ideas of the movie: “It’s supposed to be about a man who can only feel through the characters he creates.” (the writer tells his editor), “You have random characters making various excuses for your life,” (the latter complains to the former) “Women have the gift of being able to deny any reality.”
It is interesting how the movie suggests that writers are not only disturbed but also vain and lacking any principles. The writer in this movie copies down every bit of conversation he has, gets inspired by his girlfriend's misery and makes his latest novel a hit by revealing the raw, painful truths in his life and the life of others. Is this a way of unfolding bad emotions and shaking off trauma? Does the attire of writing make the writer invisible or grant him the right to stand above others? It makes you wonder about the price one pays to win at all costs or about the fact that every act of creation merely relies on destruction. It is also frustrating how all the men in this movie crave to be in control and how all female characters lack drive and strength.
In Havana, Robert Redford, the gambler, tells Lena Olin, "A butterfly can flutter its wings over a flower in China and cause a hurricane in the Caribbean. They can even calculate the odds." This comes out as an attractive piece of truths on the lips of the seductive man, yet it bears little scientific proof. The idea of the butterfly effect as it is perceived by the pop culture -a single occurrence, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe forever - insinuates itself in the layers of the movie, suggesting a kind of boomerang effect in the way relationships get shattered. Every time a third person comes along, the initial balance is disrupted, suggesting a kind of fatalistic approach to the misfortunes and accidents of life. Nevertheless, despite the range of actors and some good performances, Third person reads itself like the 50 cent coin that the writer drops in the sparkling water glass -it stirs a bubble or two but it never rises above water, rather ebb flowing in its little glass-like universe.