The Third Person is a 2013 film directed by Paul Haggis, filmed in the auteur cinema genre. Haggis filmed several intertwined stories of love and relationships that took place in different parts of the world, but still connected in certain details.
The picture turned out to be unusual due to the representation of the author’s narrow view of the issue, which affected the box office (they turned out to be quite small and amounted to no more than 1/5 of the budget) and caused sharp criticism from both professionals and the audience. Nevertheless, the stories of the characters turned out to be interesting enough to tell about them – for connoisseurs of Haggis’s work and complex paintings, The Third Person will be interesting.
What is The Third Person about?
The action of the film develops in parallel in different countries: in France, in the USA and in Italy. At the beginning, it seems to the viewer that the three stories are not connected in any way, but by the end the plot merges together, revealing the same characters from a new side. The first phrase uttered in the film is “Look at me”, but it is still unknown who, to whom and why says it.
Paris, France. The main character is the writer Michael, who recently divorced Elaine. At first, he rejoices that he was able to leave an unsuccessful marriage, and decides to start a new life with his mistress Anna. They have been dating for a long time, and Anna is a complex creative person who also writes.
The viewer watches how at first a touching and caring relationship turns into a hysterical nightmare in which both partners are on emotional anguish. Anna and Michael cannot yield to each other, and the writer himself does not seem to be too in love with the girl. He becomes uncomfortable with her attention and often offends her. Anna reacts very sharply to Michael’s indifference and even tries to complain to her father, but instead of supporting him, he starts too close a relationship with his daughter – what happened cannot be called healthy or at least somehow acceptable. The traumatized girl returns to the hotel to Michael, who, tormented by guilt, covers the room with white roses.
New York, USA. Julia previously starred in television series, but her acting career did not work out. Now she is forced to work as a maid in a hotel and fight with her ex-husband Rick for custody of her son. She is accused of improper parenting and child abuse, but Julia denies everything and desperately wants the boy back. She is selflessly assisted by Teresa, a lawyer and specialist in family affairs.
But the further the viewer looks at this heroine, the more it seems that Teresa is led by some other motives … Julia again experiences a nervous breakdown. She works in a hotel, and an inadequate condition overtakes her in the room. We see that somehow Anna from the first story was connected to Julia’s injury, and the maid trashes a hotel room strewn with white roses…
Rome, Italy. American businessman Scott on a business trip meets a charming gypsy Monica. He falls in love with a girl, trying to drown out his pain from losing his son with a new hobby – the boy accidentally drowned in the pool while his father was distracted. Scott finds out that Monica’s daughter was kidnapped by Italian gangsters from Taranto, and decides to help the girl, as the criminals demand a ransom. He soon realizes that Monica is a swindler, but the desperate idea of helping a child makes him continue his search.
The meaning of the film “Third Person”
The further the action develops, the more the viewer pays attention to the symbols and clues left by the director. More and more details indicate that the three stories from different cities are somehow connected, because they contain a subtle allusion to the “third person” – the driving force that stimulates the characters to act. All the characters suffer from the traumas of the past and cannot find a way out to continue their lives: a failed marriage, a nervous breakdown and the loss of a child are all present in their lives, although they do not know each other and should not be connected in any way …
The plot gradually unravels when Scott calls the mother of his child, who turns out to be Teresa. It turns out that the boy who died in the pool is their son, and now Teresa is trying to help Julia save her child because earlier she could not save hers.
Everything seems to be clear, and the connection between the two storylines is obvious. But here the viewer again sees Michael, who, due to a difficult relationship with Anna, is now not doing his job well. The publisher is dissatisfied with the works, and Michael calls his ex-wife in order to talk heart to heart …
Elaine, who answered the phone, looks exactly like Teresa. You might think that the lawyer was married twice to different men, and in one of these marriages she lost a child. And the same dead child is called the son of Michael and Elaine. Now it is very difficult to connect the three images of Teresa together, and now the viewer is asking questions – are all the characters real? Why are their stories intertwined so bizarrely? And why does it all come down to one writer whose stories the publishers suddenly don’t like?
Explanation of the ending of the film “Third Person”
By the end, The Third Person completely moves away from melodramatic scenes in different countries and turns into a psychological thriller. The images of the main characters begin to literally dissolve and disappear before the viewer’s eyes: Teresa in the pool, happy Scott and Monica, who bought her daughter from the gangsters, Julia’s ex-husband…
It becomes clear that the “third person” is always a child. A child with whom something happened, a child who was lost. It all comes down to the fact that this child died. And he never had any other parents besides Michael and Elaine: Julia and Rick, Scott and Monica never existed. These are heroes invented by the writer Michael, again and again experiencing his own loss.
In Italy and the United States, the stories that the film told earlier never happened. They were invented by Michael, who, due to his own inattention, did not keep track of the child and lost him. The writer from France invested his pain in stories where parents suffered from loss and tried to regain their children. Trying to distract himself from the same plot, rejected by the publisher, Michael writes a new story.
The next heroine of Michael becomes a girl, the greatest love of his life. In the work, the writer tells about her fate and about the terrible things that her father did to her … This heroine is Anna, and she is quite real. Michael used the secret facts of her biography and betrayed the trust of her beloved by sending the work to the publisher.
When the viewer understands this, the rest of the ghostly stories seem to shatter into pieces, and it becomes clear: Michael lost a child, betrayed his ex-wife, and now he has lost his beloved. He will have to relive his pain again and again, and he will try to hook on the remnants of the stories he created, but he still will not be able to get out of them.
The writer seemed to imprison himself in a time loop, where suffering returns again and again in new images. And now he has to face the pain of loss not only in stories about the death of a child, but also in the true story of the trauma of a girl who hardly wants to continue her relationship with Michael now. Trying to drown his feelings in his own works, the writer drowned his whole life and new relationships in them, which could make him happy and give him a chance for recovery.