Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"A film that is both intellectually stimulating and visually satisfying."

Hanna (Sophie Rois) is in science marketing. She's also irritable and argumentative, which she puts down to the menopause, though she's also stressed because her relationship seems to have gone stale and her partner isn't giving her the sex she wants. So she picks a fight with visiting cell biologist Adam (Devid Striesow). One things leads to another. Before she knows it, she's having an affair.

Simon (Sebastian Schipper) is also frustrated. He has found it hard to tell Hanna that part of the reason sex hasn't been working is that he has testicular cancer. After surgery, he feels depleted, unsure of himself. So when a stranger comes on to him at the local swimming baths, he impulsively lets it happen, and he too begins an affair. With Adam.

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Where this is going is fairly obvious from the start but the route by which it gets there is imaginative, inventive and thoughtful - a mature examination of modern love. The film is mercifully free of the usual tropes of farce and its handling of serious issues like illness gives it a depth not shared by previous explorations of alternative relationship structures.

Also interesting is the way the film both informs and challenges its narrative with science, questioning conventional ideas about sexuality and gender yet providing a timely reminder that some biological issues need to be handled with care. The imagery of cell biology is nicely intercut with Frank Griebe's elegant cinematography, which in turn is nicely complemented by Uli Hanisch's production design. The result is a film that is both intellectually stimulating and visually satisfying.

Where is falls down is in its neatness, its symmetry, which sometimes leaves it feeling contrived. The number of separate, physically demanding hobbies Adam manages to sustain alongside his career and relationships seems unlikely to say the least, and his emotional development as a character is rather less convincing than that of the other two. Despite the unconventionality of the narrative, he's basically your standard romcom love interest, an underdeveloped cypher allowing focus to remain elsewhere.

That said, 3 is a film that does daring things elsewhere, with structure as well as story, and its visual symmetry is appealingly developed. Such are its successes that it would be churlish to come down too hard on its faults. It does what it sets out to do, carving a path of is own, and for that it deserves respect.

Reviewed on: 12 Feb 2012
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Things become complicated when two halves of a couple separately develop illicit interests in the same man.

Director: Tom Tykwer

Writer: Tom Tykwer

Starring: Sophie Rois, Sebastian Schipper, David Streison

Year: 2010

Runtime: 119 minutes

Country: Germany


Glasgow 2012

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