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The Three

Delightful Russian rom-com shows a Russian sensibility little known to Western audiences more used to the country's raw and bleak cinema - from the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


I am not entirely sure whether Russians audiences have a wide selection of Russian rom-coms at their disposal. But I can ascertain that it is extremely rare for a prestigious international film festivals such as PÖFF and a Western sales company to pick up such a film. I am very pleased to say that they made the right choice. The Three is a very effective romantic comedy that will not disappoint Western audiences used to seeing Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts fall in and out of love.

Sasha (Konstantin Khabensky) is a TV presenter married to internet celebrity Zyulya (Viktoria Isakova). Sasha hosts a very popular talk show, while Zyulya provides love counselling to broken-hearted internet viewers (simple advice such as “if he’s cheating he no longer loves you” or “no one gets dumped; you simply split up”). The middle-aged couple are picture perfect: beautiful, successful and in an seemingly stable relationship. They live in a sumptuous apartment in Moscow.

All is well until Sasha starts a relationship with the young tour guide called Veronika (Yulia Peresild), whom he meets on a trip to Saint Petersburg. She has the Bridget Jones’s look of naivety (minus the giant knickers plus a lot of eyeliner). The fact that all three actors are very successful stars on their own merit adds an extra layer of credence to their performances. Plus the fact that Peresild is credited with a real-life affair with the then-married oligarch Roman Abramovich makes her the perfect actress to play appropriate the “marriage-wrecker” role.

Our male protagonist has irresistibly and deceptively innocent-looking eyes, and a vaguely Hugh Grant-ish romantic appeal. Zyulya has placid and sad eyes. She fights hard to keep the spark in the marriage. The scene in which she pops the champagne open and shows off her new lingerie only for her husband to turn her down in favour of work is particularly moving. She realises that she isn’t immune to the problems her online viewers face. She breaks down upon finding out that her husband is in love with Veronika. She eventually takes matters into her own hands with a Jolene type of initiative that’s entirely at odds with her teachings. After all, the shoemaker’s wife is always worst clad.

The Three is a very traditional rom-com with every recognisable element of the genre: a hapless female or two, serendipitous and awkward encounters, sad and pensive protagonists strolling along the river while observing strangers, and lovers discussing their feelings in the rain or on the backseat of a moving cab. To the sound of cheesy love tunes. These ingredients are combined to a create a very tasty cake, with just the right amount of saccharine.

The most beautiful and also the most painful encounters take place on the streets of Russia’s imperial capital, where Veronika lives. If you thought Paris was the City of Love, think again. Saint Petersburg is far more impressive: its ornate bridges and canals provide the perfect setting for romance (and the subsequent breakups). The film wraps up with swinging camera on top of one such canal, to the sound of an endearing Russian tune about swinging. That’s the cherry on top of the cake.

The Three has just premiered at the 24th PÖFF Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, where it’s showing in the Official Competition. Paris-based international sales and distribution business Reel Suspects acquired the film. Let’s hope it will be widely available soon!

By Victor Fraga - 24-11-2020

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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