By Don Simpson | September 10, 2013
Director: Catherine Corsini
Writers: Catherine Corsini (screenplay), Benoît Graffin (screenplay), Antoine Jaccoud (collaboration), Lise Macheboeuf (collaboration)
Starring: Raphaël Personnaz, Clotilde Hesme, Arta Dobroshi, Reda Kateb, Alban Aumard, Adèle Haenel, Jean-Pierre Malo, Laurent Capelluto, Rasha Bukvic
Catherine Corsini’s Three Worlds delicately studies the emotional aftermath of a hit-and-run accident, focusing on the driver, the victim’s wife and the witness. An emotional whirlwind, the three primary characters experience human connections and disconnections, while wrestling with the psychological torments of fear, guilt, forgiveness and hatred.
On the night of the accident, Al (Raphaël Personnaz) is out having a good time with his friends; but while not paying attention to the road, he severely injures a pedestrian. Fear takes hold of Al, so he flees from the scene of the crime. Immediately ravaged by guilt — and relentlessly worried that he will eventually be apprehended — Al can barely function in his new role as manager of a car dealership.
A medical student, Juliette (Clotilde Hesme), is at the window of her flat at the time of the accident. She sees Al as he gets out of his car only to get right back inside and speed away. Without the make and model of his car or a license plate number, it seems as though Juliette will never be able to identify the driver of the vehicle; but as the weight of Al’s conscience grows exponentially, the chances of Juliette and Al seeing each other again increases.
Vera (Arta Dobroshi) is the wife of the accident victim. She and her husband arrived in Paris from Moldavia five years ago in search for a better life, but they have slaved away as undocumented immigrants the entire time. Unfamiliar with the French way of doing things, Vera is lost, at least until she befriends Juliette.
Three Worlds also functions as an ardent analysis of the economic class system. Al has worked his way up to management from his early days as a mechanic. His boss Testard (Jean-Pierre Malo) has now given Al 25% ownership of the dealership, just prior to Al’s wedding to Testard’s daughter (Adèle Haenel). Coming from an incredibly humble economic upbringing, Al seems overwhelmed by the perceived wealth that he has inherited. Of course the wealth is only perceived, so when he needs money it is impossible to come by. Al even tries to mimic Testard’s tactics of off-the-books car sales to no avail. In the end, Al is too decent of a person for this line of business, despite his cowardly approach to the accident. Al just wants a better life; and he feels as though he has earned it, both by his time served at the car dealership and by courting the boss’ daughter. Other than his recent faux pax, Al is a beautiful example of the lower class climbing the rungs of the socio-economic ladder to an upper middle class lifestyle.
Told primarily from Juliette’s perspective, Three Worlds is overtly sympathetic towards both Al and Vera. As Juliette tries to negotiate a settlement that will be mutually beneficial to Al and Vera, the film takes — what may be interpreted as — an all too forgiving turn. Sure, it is understandable that Al suffers inwardly for his crime, torturing himself with self-inflicted mental punishment; but Three Worlds really begs to question how we feel about his behavior. Watching him interact with Juliette, it is difficult not to believe that he is just grasping at straws, hoping that she will somehow save him from his internal torment.
For all intents and purposes, Corsini seems ready to forgive Al, allowing the audience ample opportunities to feel sympathy for him. Three Worlds is a perfect example of putting forgiveness over punishment. Sure, Al should have been paying closer attention to the road ahead of him, but the accident was just that — an accident. Some critics might refer to this forgiving approach to storytelling as feminist, but maybe it is just humanistic.