Wednesday 30 October 2013

Movie Review: 360 (2011)

A series of related sketches revolving around the unifying theme of dysfunctional relationships, 360 is a rewarding romp through the credible carnage of broken dreams.

In Vienna, Mirka (Lucia Siposova) sells herself to the world of prostitution through an on-line service, despite the quiet protests of her younger sister Anna (Gabriela Marcinkova). Mirka's first client is supposed to be English businessman Michael, but the encounter does not proceed as planned. In Paris, a Muslim dentist (Jamel Debbouze) is obsessed with a woman, and spies on her as she catches a flight. The dentist seeks the advice of his therapist and the Imam at his mosque. In London, fashion editor Rose (Rachel Weisz) is trying to terminate an affair with Brazilian photographer Rui (Juliano Cazarré), but the physical attraction is too strong. Rui's girlfriend Laura (Maria Flor) dumps him and starts the long trip back to Brazil. Meanwhile, Michael returns home to his wife Rose, and they attend the school play of their young daughter.

On a connecting flight, Laura meets the elderly John (Anthony Hopkins), and they strike up a friendship, John admitting that he has cheated on his wife and that his daughter is missing, presumed dead. Both are stranded at Denver airport due to a storm. Convicted sex offender Tyler (Ben Foster) is gradually being reintegrated back into society, and he also ends up at the airport. Laura is desperate to have a sexual liaison of her own, and attempts to seduce Tyler after meeting him at the airport restaurant, not aware how dangerous he may be.

At an AA meeting, John reveals how the encounter with Laura has changed him. Another meeting attendee, Valentina (Dinara Drukarova) expresses her deep disappointment with her husband Sergei (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), a gofer for a Russian mobster, and confesses that she is interested in another man, her boss the dentist. As the small degrees of separation that connect the world play out, two of these unknowingly linked characters will meet on the streets of Vienna under the unlikeliest of circumstances, disoriented souls oblivious to the grand forces that brought them together.

While undoubtedly episodic by definition, the beauty of 360 lies in embracing life's unexpected quirkiness. Almost everything that can be expected to happen in a standard plot does not happen in 360; instead, other things happen to ping the characters in unexpected directions. Most of the encounters find off-tangent, often messy endings, obvious doors closing and hidden windows opening, never in any anticipated manner.

Directed by Fernando Meirelles with plenty of style sometimes bordering on excessively showy, 360 finds the intriguing parallels in the lives of seemingly unconnected strangers. The most common thread is that of disintegrating bonds, with not one of the characters enjoying an emotionally satisfying relationship. The disappointments do not stop them from seeking the dream of a better future, but the Peter Morgan script is stark: simple happiness is often frustratingly elusive.

Another theme running through the movie is loss, and this extends beyond the emotional loss between couples. John has lost a daughter, Tyler is gaining his freedom but ironically losing his comfortable prison environment. Mirka loses her client, Michael loses control of his deal, then his daughter loses her lines. Sergei loses sleep, then loses the respect of his boss. Most of the losses are never recovered, and Morgan's characters have to shake off the disappointments and carry on, seeking solace elsewhere.

Within the confines of a multi-faceted human-based drama, Meirelles looks for technical artistry at every opportunity, melding scenes together, splashing through the gentle rain and achieving a modern oil painting look dominated by blues and gray. The screen is often loosely divided into strips showing different characters interacting in their own environment, adding a level of dynamism to the simple act of living.

In an ensemble production none of the actors get too much screen time. Hopkins and Flor emerge as the most prominent performers, and their scenes together carry the most fulfilling mix of serendipity and realism. The closing episode in Vienna mercifully does not try to tie up all the loose ends, but manages to finally conjure up something resembling fulfilment for two otherwise despondent people. Happiness is always welcome, and the right relationship may emerge when least expected to add a dash of new vigour to life.

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