NYAFF 2018: The Third Murder
“Nobody here tells the truth.” This line was muttered towards the end of The Third Murder. Upon viewing this installation by Hirokazu Kore-eda, this quote stuck with me as I pondered who did what and why they did it in this legal crime thriller.
The Third Murder stars Masaharu Fukuyama as lawyer Tomoaki Shigemori, who is defending a man facing the death penalty. The man in question is Misumi (Kōji Yakusho), who is being charged with robbery and the murder of his boss who fired him just before the fatal incident. He confesses to the crime and is now awaiting sentencing. However, as the trial rolls on, Shigemori unfolds more puzzle pieces to the story that could potentially change Misumi’s fate.
Hirokazu Kore-eda is known for his films that are meditative reflections on a time in one’s life more so than focusing on a plot or having a definitive ending. More importantly, he focuses on family dynamic. His films show how a family interacts with one another and what underlying issues and secrets they may have. He places an emphasis on struggles and how a character can find a way to relieve themselves of some of the pain that they cause. The Third Murder strays from this normality in films. If you are familiar with his work, you will know right off the bat that this is a complete change of pace for Kore-eda.
Opening with Misumi wielding a brick to the back of his bosses head by a riverbank with melodic tunes in the background, Kore-eda immediately makes it known that this is not a family slow burn film like his followers are familiar with. Unfortunately, it also loses his essential touch. Normally he reels his audience in with nostalgia and relativity, but with this, we find ourselves putting together pieces of a trial to find an answer for ourselves.
On the other hand, it does keep your thought process churning until the very end, as it raises questions in the viewer throughout. Who can you trust? What stories can you believe? Is the man that Shigemori is defending truly guilty even though he confessed, or is this a cover up for something more larger in scale? Misumi is thought to be the killer from the get-go. As new characters are revealed and plots thicken, Shigemori is at a crossroads with what the truth really is and how he should approach his next step.
Although the story becomes more convoluted as it goes on, Hirokazu Kore-eda still manages to put his magical touch on this film. Scenes of eating reveal the most important information in the case, and if you are familiar with Kore-eda’s filmography, you will know that these scenes are pivotal in all of his work. It is where the characters are most comfortable to talk about whatever they need to talk about. This is a nice touch to see that even in a genre he is tackling for the first time, he continues to add his quintessential elements. It was also a joy to see recurring actors and actresses from his other films. Not only was Masaharu Fukuyama of Like Father Like Son fame in this, but Suzu Hirose plays the role of the deceased man’s daughter. She is best known for her role in Our Little Sister. Familiarity is always a wonderful aspect in Kore-eda’s films.
Though beautifully shot and mostly entertaining, The Third Murder still falls short. It’s disjointed and doesn’t feel completely evolved. Kore-eda did not understand the judicial system when beginning production of this film, and only knew what a lawyer friend had told him about the profession in Japan. You can tell that he did his research for this piece, but was it enough? Though ambitious, Kore-eda tries a bit too hard to pull off a legal crime thriller. It is a shame, but if he can fully grasp this genre, there may be more from him in the future.