There’s something wrong here. You ask yourself, how come something that reeks of quality, with a quality cast and a quality writer-director reprising – structurally at least – his finest hour, feels so limp and insipid?
Paul Haggis won two Oscars for Crash, which presented vignettes of individual stories to present a damning essay on race and politics in the US.
Here, he adopts the same portmanteau technique for an appraisal of grief, trust and betrayal but the impact is largely muted, despite a velvet script and interesting cast.
Different European capitals host different stories. In New York, Paris and Rome, three couples appear to have nothing in common except heartbreak, grief and yearning.
So, against endlessly beautiful backdrops, we see detached author Michael (Liam Neesom) and his tempestuous young lover Anna (Olivia Wilde) in Paris. (Wilde is the best thing in the movie.)
In Rome dodgy businessman Scott (Adrien Brody) meets prejudice and mistrust in his wooing of sad immigrant Monika (Moran Atias).
And smug Rick (James Franco) exchanges blows with his unstable ex Julia (Mila Kunis) over custody of their son. And, is that……Yes, it is. Kim Basinger in a cameo.
These stories play out with a stately, if not compelling, progression. Written nicely, played well and presented with assurance.
There has to be something else, you think, as these vignettes tend towards their satisfying conclusions.
And there is. There is something else. The clues are all there but I missed them. A second viewing is probably necessary as the Bigger Picture is revealed, not by a camera slowly inching backwards, turning pixel into portrait, but in a rush.
I, for one, still don’t get it. I walked away from the screening still baffled by the thread that links the tales and the extent to which these acts of misdirection rendered the stories invalid. More likely the lack of distinction is to give room for multiple interpretations, which is no bad thing.
The film could have survived without any twists for it is a pleasurable, if undemanding, watch. But, ultimately, it falls short because it tries too hard to do something and be something that is entirely out of character.