The stuff of great drama is conflict – how people intersect and interact with one another – and this is chiefly begun by throwing characters together. They collide with one another in ways that spark emotions or develop intrigue, at least so much so that the audience watching is interesting in knowing more, in being unable to turn away for fear of missing something crucial. Yes, while there are only a handful of stories that can be told (I’ve heard it told that there are seven fundamental premises behind all of narrative fiction), it’s the way these disparate players come together that matters. They each have their own emotional baggage, and how they sort through their differences – based on their upbringing, their personal beliefs, or their own moral convictions – is what fuels any motion picture.
THREE WORLDS is a tremendously involving tale that posits three primary characters – along with a good handful of terrific supporting players, too – that quickly gets to the heart of such great drama; fittingly, it all begins with a collision.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Al (played with terrific attachment by Raphael Personnaz) finally has it all: he’s gone from rags-to-riches, starting out with nothing and rising to the top of an elite automobile dealership through proven sales successes. He’s recently been promoted to manager, and he’s about to wed his boss’s daughter, a beautiful young professional who appears to be the perfect catch. But one night while partying with two of his work colleagues, Al commits a hit-and-run accident, seriously injuring a man crossing the street. At the behest of his two mates, Al flees the scene of the crime, unbeknownst to the fact that it was all witnessed by a young woman living in an apartment above the square.
Enter Juliette (Clotilde Hesme): distraught from arguing with her boyfriend, she walks to her apartment’s balcony and looks down into the street exactly at the moment of the collision. She watches in horror at Al climbs from his car and then ultimately races away. Racing downstairs, she sits with the fallen man until the ambulance arrives, all the while wanting to help him, to ease his pain, and to make it all go away.
Enter Vera (Arta Dobroshi): she is the wife of the man struck down in the street. Once she is brought to the hospital, she adopts Juliette as a friend in order to have someone to experience these treacherous moments with. Over the course of the next few days, they grow closer as they sit at her husband’s side, waiting to see whether he’ll live or die from the consequences of the accident.
From here, THREE WORLDS begins. The picture, written and directed by Catherine Corsini, is a tightly paced drama that deals with the human condition – how and why we do what we do, as well as how and why we suffer as a result from the choices we make. It’s a brilliant character study – Al’s assuredness slowly fades away as he seeks to make amends with his terrible mistake; Juliette’s frustration with her own boyfriend comes to a head when she meets Al and realizes he’s not a terrible person; and Vera fights against the social system that ostracizes outsiders (she’s in France illegally) all the while trying to come to grips with grief. These three people from different lives and different backgrounds can’t help but intersect again and again and again, despite their best efforts, and it’ll slowly lead to their everyday existence unraveling in ways none of them ever imagined.
In the end, THREE WORLDS is all about how we, as people, seek some kind of resolution – spiritual, personal, financial, etc. – and it cleverly reminds us that forgiveness is easy but acceptance never comes without a price on one’s soul.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that THREE WORLDS won the Audience Award for Honorable Mention (Best New French Film) at the 2012 Philadelphia Film Festival. Additionally, it’s been played as an Official Selection to the Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival. Bravo to all involved.
THREE WORLDS (2012) is produced by Pyramide Productions, France 3 Cinema, Canal+, and a whole host of others (surf on over to IMDB.com if you’re all that interested). DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by Film Movement. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a French spoken language release with French subtitles (there is no English dubbing available). As for the technical specifications, the film looks and sounds terrific consistently. As for the special features, there isn’t much: there’s a bonus short film from director Olivier Treiner (THE PIANO TUNER) for those interested.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. Outside of the final scene – where it would appear all of the events of THREE WORLDS merely add up to exposition with no message – the film is a masterful production in many ways reminiscent of the best works of Alfred Hitchcock: people find themselves in the darndest places, and they do what they must to try to reconcile the good, the bad, and the ugly of what they’ve done. The performances are terrific all around, and that’s probably owed in no small measure to writer/director Catherine Corsini’s command of the world she’s created. It’s a nightmare of collision in more ways than one, and I certainly hope it finds a wider audience.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Film Movement provided me with a DVD copy of THREE WORLDS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.