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The Third Murder

Hirokazu Kore-eda

Hirokazu Kore-eda may have a world-wide reputation for quietly devastating family tragicomedies (Still Walking, After the Storm), but every so often he likes to throw in an unexpected treat. Hana was an unusually thoughtful samurai drama. Air Doll was a strangely moving rom-com about a man’s love for an inflatable woman. And as the title may suggest, his latest film, The Third Murder, is another curveball.

The film opens with a seemingly ordinary man (Kōji Yakusho, excellent as ever) killing someone and burning their body. Showing little remorse, he confesses to the crime, but the problem is that his story keeps changing. The first half of the film, which follows the efforts of his lawyer (Masaharu Fukuyama, equally as good) to prevent a deathsentence, is a character-driven legal procedural worthy of comparison to Sidney Lumet’s The Verdict. Somewhere along the way, however, Kore-eda subtly changes gear and the film becomes more metaphysical – a zen-like meditation on the nature of truth, the moral contradictions of the legal system, and, in typical Kore-eda fashion, the true responsibilities of fatherhood.

Come in expecting a Hollywood style thriller and The Third Murder is bound to disappoint. Kore-eda’s film totally eschews melodrama, sensationalism and sentimentality, and bravely refuses to offer any easy answers. But those with an open mind may recognise it as a modern masterpiece that will haunt them long after it’s over.