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film review

The courtroom drama centres around the murder of a factory president.Courtesy of TIFF

  • The Third Murder
  • Written and directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda
  • Starring: Koji Yakusho and Masaharu Fukuyama
  • Classification: N/A
  • 124 minutes

Rating:

2 out of 4 stars

Any new work by Hirokazu Koreeda is a major event, full stop. The Japanese director has proven his bona fides time and again over his lengthy career, from his early masterpieces Nobody Knows and Still Walking to last year’s layered family drama After the Storm. Never in a rush but always keenly aware of tone and pace, Koreeda brings a literary sensibility and sensitivity to the cinematic landscape − no surprise, given his earlier ambitions to become a novelist. Which is why it is such a distressing challenge to assess The Third Murder, Koreeda’s latest film and easily his weakest in recent memory. A legal drama following a defence attorney taking on a seemingly hopeless murder case, the movie is equal parts frustrating and forgettable. The film essentially disintegrates before your eyes, with Koreeda displaying little of the quiet elegance he’s built his entire career upon. Koreeda plays with a few interesting notions − including the impossibility of absolute truth − but the film feels listless instead of compelling, tired instead of inspiring. Koreeda completists should add it to their itineraries if for no other reason than to see how a master can stumble, but for audiences unfamiliar with the filmmaker’s work, a simple plea: Start anywhere else.

The Third Murder opens July 20 in Toronto