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" I didn’t lover her cuz it was right... I just loved her. "
— Robert Redford, Horse Whisperer

MRQE Top Critic

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You might know director Tom Tykwer best for Run Lola Run, though I like his fatalistic crescendos in Wintersleepers and Heaven. In3, the mother of all love triangles, he starts another snowball rolling.

One Thing Leads To Another

One thing leads to another
One thing leads to another

Simon and Hanna have been together 20 years. Hanna meets another man at a bioethics panel and finds she really likes him. She goes to a social hour after the panel, follows him to his rec-league soccer game, joins him for beers after the game. One thing leads to another, and....

Meanwhile, Simon finds out he has testicular cancer and must go under the knife that very night. In a meaningful tangent, he recognizes his nurse. They dated 17 years ago; she tells him she had an abortion after they broke up. Then it’s time for her to help take one of his boys. (Note: there’s a brief but squirm-inducing scene of the surgery.) If Simon were insecure, he might say he’s half the man he used to be, which fits with movie’s accounting.

Recovering, he meets a stranger at the swimming pool who challenges him to a race. He loses and chalks up his defeat to his recent surgery, which leads to a friendly inquiry and an honest answer. Back in locker room, the stranger expresses some innocent-seeming curiosity. One thing leads to another, and....

Two and Two Together

Meanwhile Hanna and Simon decide to get married after all these years. Maybe it’s the shame of their recent affairs. Maybe they realize, by comparison, that there’s more to their relationship than just sex. In another meaningful tangent, they wonder why they never got pregnant after all these years. One of them must have been impotent all these years.

Yet in spite of their new engagement, neither one can forget or give up the new man in their life.

Have you figured out where the number 3 comes in yet?

Conventionally Unconventional

3has that Tykwer sense of fate that I like — you can see the onrushing car — the pacing and music propel the characters to an inevitable collision — yet you can’t do anything to stop it. I won’t tell you what the collision looks like, but I will say that Tykwer doesn’t sacrifice any character’s integrity for the sake of the plot, and that the mathematics involved after the collision are unconventional.

Then again, there is “unconventional” and there is surprising. There’s “unconventional” and there’s shocking. 3insists on trying to shock. And indeed there are some graphic scenes of sexual encounters, not to mention that up-close scene of Simon’s orchiectomy. On that level, the film went far enough to make me and my festival audience uncomfortable.

But there’s a difference between making an audience flinch and genuinely shocking their sensibilities. Fifteen years ago, 3might have been truly groundbreaking and surprising — worthy of a social dialogue. These days, it seems na├»ve to think that an international film audience would miss a step because of the sexual math in3.