Movie Review: ‘3 Lives’

Review by Jay Bowman

I suppose I’ll start by getting right to the point: 3 Lives is a movie about the long-lasting damage of sexual assault that feels the need to wear the mask of a thriller film. Unfortunately, these two elements are balanced inadequately to get across the meaningful message it strives for or the tense story that it wants to be its vehicle. Throw in stilted dialog, a snail’s pace, and uneven acting performances all around, and what you’re left with is a quiet, albeit well-meaning, mess.

Emma (Mhairi Calvey) is abducted and held hostage in a bunker. She soon discovers there are two other captives: Jamie (Martin Kaps), an old high-school friend, and Ben (Tyron Ricketts), the man who raped her several years prior. Despite her fear of and complete lack of trust in Ben, Emma needs to rely on him and Jamie as the three escape and navigate the surrounding wilderness while evading their mysterious kidnappers.

Calvey’s performance is the only one that stands out, and she does an excellent job portraying the emotional extremes experienced when a victim is forced to face their attacker. She also has an internal struggle between wanting to forgive (or at the very least, forget) and trying to undo what was done to her. But this dynamic is undermined by the story’s baddies: three soldiers who abducted our trio for reasons and attempt to recapture them for other reasons. They manage to be both ill-defined and cliche at the same time, an impressive feat dwarfed only by how ineffective they are at bringing any sense of tension or urgency to the proceedings. Indeed, they feel like an afterthought added only because a thriller requires someone or something for the heroes to run away from. While the relationship between the three leads is explored through their constant jabs at one another and slowly unraveling non-friendships, the villains of the piece spend a lot of time sharpening sticks and squabbling.

3 Lives moves at an awkward pace despite being just under an hour and twenty minutes long. The mystery of why these three people have been snatched doesn’t get addressed properly until maybe the last twenty minutes or so, but once it does the story throws in so many twists that whatever semblance of a plot we could follow enters a rapid downward spiral. Instead of resolving everything with a neat little bow, the finale leaves so many logistical questions about how any of this happened that the film simply falls flat. Which is frustrating, because before the credits roll we’re presented with sexual assault statistics that are not only sobering but show the initial seeds of where the movie might have started. If the idea was to bring greater attention to the undeniable horrors of sexual abuse, one must wonder why it was framed as a genre film like this. It’s not that it doesn’t take itself seriously—I think anyone who watches it will agree that it does—it’s just that the real-world problems faced by survivors paired with the odd scenario of being caged in a mountain bunker by three men with varying accents is such an odd mix that it’s hard for the audience to give it much weight.

What’s most disappointing, though, is that there’s a really good story in here that doesn’t get the screen time it deserves. How Emma, Ben, and Jamie relate, with all of their secrets and dirty laundry, could make a story that’s more effective on all fronts. It could even reach the same conclusion, twists and all, without the half-baked kidnapping plot and forest wandering that make up the bulk of the run time. Sadly, in its final form, 3 Lives is a pass.

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