Third Person review: a cinema crash waiting to happen

Beautiful people have all the frickin’ problems in Paul Haggis glossy but superficial drama

Third Person
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Director: Paul Haggis
Cert: 15A
Genre: Drama
Starring: Liam Neeson, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde, James Franco
Running Time: 2 hrs 16 mins

Is there an antonym for “seamless”? What word does a tailor use when three pieces of cloth come together in a particularly ugly knotted mess? Anyway, if you come across the right term, then direct it towards this misguided portmanteau piece from Paul Haggis.

The director and writer of the wrong Crash offers us a trio of stories set in different exotic locations. Though visual and aural rhymes occur between the narratives – a scribbled note in Paris cuts to a scribbled note in New York – no formal link appears until a profoundly puzzling, near-supernatural mesh about two-thirds of the way through. It should be a daring jolt. But it feels unearned, unsatisfactory and plain confusing.

People really are awfully good looking on Planet Haggis. Here in New York, gorgeous, depressive Mila Kunis is angry that gorgeous, pretentious James Franco has run off with gorgeous, exotic Loan Chabanol. Over there in Italy, gorgeous, cynical Adrien Brody has decided to help out gorgeous, untrustworthy Moran Atias in her efforts to separate her daughter from ruggedly gorgeous gangsters.

Meanwhile, over in Paris, gorgeous, clichéd Liam Neeson – a writer who knocks back whiskey like an off-the- peg Hemingway – is exchanging queasy sexy asides with gorgeous, irrational Olivia Wilde. She’s wants to watch herself. Over the past decade, when angered in European cities, Neeson has tended to respond with hand grenades.


To be fair, there are decent things in each story. Kunis, desperate to regain the child she may have endangered, has a heart-wrenching moment when betrayed at her lowest ebb. Wilde and Neeson struggle gallantly with dialogue that suggests something by a less fastidious, less tasteful Noel Coward. Brody is slyly funny throughout.

However the larger edifice feels distinctly jerry-built and, sure enough, when nudged sharply in the final scenes it comes crashing disastrously about the director’s ears.

Not fit for purpose.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist