'The Third Murder' is a film asking a lot of questions, but answering few. To be clear: that's a good thing. What is truth? What is righteousness? Which of the two are more important for a lawyer? And for a judge? Is capital punishment always wrong? Or, in the words of the killer: should some people never have been born?
With this film, acclaimed film maker Hirukazo Kore-eda takes a different path from many of his previous films. He is known for his delicate and subtle dramas about the family life of ordinary people. This time, he has made a sort of courtroom drama (although only a small part is actually set in a courtroom) about a killer and his possible motives.
Still, the theme of family relations is not absent in this film. Far from it, in fact. Fatherhood is omnipresent. One of the most important characteristics of the killer is how he has failed as a father. The lawyer defending him discusses the case with his own father, a retired judge who has convicted the same killer decades earlier. And the dead victim turns out to have been the worst father imaginable. At least, in one version of the truth.
'The Third Murder' is a multi-layered, complex film which offers lots of surprises and twists. Kore-eda succeeds in keeping the viewer wondering what comes next. But at the same time, the result is less convincing than in some of Kore-eda's best family dramas, in which human nature is dissected by small acts and symbolic details. Not by important, philosophical questions.