3 Backyards (2010) Poster


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Painfully slow tempo. Lacks compelling story lines.
mommyhelpme4 March 2011
Three separate stories that never intersect and never really align to explain why these stories are in the same film. Sure, you can say that the main characters all have "challenging days" and "learn a lot about themselves", but that does not help this movie FEEL like a movie. Rather it feels like three short films strung together with flute music. We never learn enough about these characters to really care about them.

Yes, some of the photography was beautifully done but much of it seemed self-serving as if the Director made this movie to amuse himself. 10 minutes in, you are already tired of the slow zooms and fades that are "played with" throughout the movie - something you might expect from a 20 year old, student filmmaker. It is almost as if, after the shooting was over, it became obvious that there was nothing compelling on the celluloid so it became necessary to distract the viewer with optical effects.

Critical reviews have been positive though - I can't help to think these reviewers are just so sick of main stream Hollywood, they find it necessary to prop up every art house film that takes a chance.

The actors do what they can with very little to work with, but their efforts can't save it. There is very little here.
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Coincidences and Consequences
gradyharp12 June 2011
Eric Mendelsohn is a new name in the movie industry. He both wrote and directed this very quiet little film that for many will be a frustrating sense of on linear storytelling or it could be criticized for having no story at all. It is a a mood piece, an isolated day somewhere on Long Island where we meet three different characters in unrelated situations except that each character unveils an aspect of humanity that is as quietly real as is unnoticed. Somehow the result of seeing these three stories leaves the audience feeling more fragile and more vulnerable, as though someone knows some of the secrets that hide in each of us.

The film opens at 3:30 in the morning with John (Elias Koteas) sitting at a table opposite his asleep wife (Kathryn Erbe). In silence John packs his suitcase, looks lovingly at his asleep daughter, and as he is quietly leaving the house his wife confronts him with his lack of communication: we are observing a marriage that is failing. John is leaving for a business trip but his flight is cancelled and rescheduled for the next day. John decides to accept the airline's offer stay over in the airport hotel and while checking in he sees a young African woman in a blue dress (Danai Gurira) being turned away when she asks for employment. John checks in and then walks to a diner where he again encounters the African girl applying for a job as a waitress: she is dismissed and yet leaves a tip for the grouchy waitress (Pam La Testa) who has mistreated her. John at first ignores the situation then a note of empathy strikes and he follows the girl with the idea of giving her some much needed money. A tragedy occurs and John's sensitivity is changed and we see him meeting his wife in a parking lot.

Simultaneously a young girl Christina (Rachel Resheff) is playing with her mother's birthday present (a gold charm bracelet) when her school bus arrives and, missing it and unable to get the bracelet off, she takes a short cut through a yard, seeing signs on trees for a missing poodle, and encounters a young man in an embarrassing situation and she runs to school. At school she realizes her charm bracelet is not on her arm. After school she retraces her steps, finds the lost poodle, and again encounters the mysterious young man who has found the bracelet and Christina is able to retrieve it, frustrated about her actions and about the fact that the bracelet is not hers to keep.

And at the same time a friendly neighborhood painter Peggy (Edie Falco) is asked by a new neighbor, the actress (Embeth Davidtz) to take her to the ferry. The actress is a stranger and on the way to the ferry the excited Peggy tries to become a friend but discovers that actress is a solitary women who breaks down in tears. Despite Peggy's need to be a should to cry on the actress treats her with distance, leaving Peggy without her dream of getting to know another world and being hurt at being dismissed.

Each of these seemingly meaningless stories carries an afterburn that is so subtle that the messages may be missed. But these are coincidences that are unexpected and have a brief life of their own and then end abruptly. The film leaves the viewer with a lot of food for thought about how happenstance our lives can seem. It is a very small film, enhanced by a lovely musical score by Michael Nicholas and written and directed with uncanny sensitivity and subtlety.

Grady Harp
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This is a Love It Or hate it self indulgent Artsy and Incoherent Movie, With Boring Screenplay
supadude20043 July 2011
So... no prizes for guessing that '3 Backyards' did indeed also bore me to tears too. The contrasting reviews here are interesting: there are those which praise the gentle tones and sensitive depictions etc. of real 'non-Hollywood' life. And then, there are those reviews which most artfully hit the nail on its proverbial head: the movie is boring, self indulgent, and stretches the limits of one's concentration span just to get from scene to scene - never mind to the movie's end! While watching this movie, I was reminded of sitting at a table in a restaurant which is sited inches too near to the next table, while my infinitely more interesting companion is late. Thus, I must be forced for a certain period to listen to the most gruesomely banal conversation, leaking from the suited bores beside me; that is to say, people who couldn't string one original idea together - if their very lives depended on doing so. Alas, the screenplay writer from this movie must've learned much from folk none too dissimilar to those nondescript inanities, sitting beside me then - because this movie lacks even half of a moment's worth of brilliance.

A miserably boring, exercise in futility. "2/10", is its true rating, this reviewer declares, and not "1/10" - solely because the production and acting were not at all bad. Watch this movie if you must, and if only to know how an arty movie can also fail to engage its audience. Gladly, I very much know that not all Art movies are as boring as 3 Backyards, for I'm no 'Trashformers' fan!
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Contrived trash!
charmwear16 March 2011
Of the 2 rating - one is for Edie Falco, who plays the only character that has any (in this film) and whose vulnerability isn't accompanied by a musical score that is reminiscence of Psycho and/or the Perils of Pauline! I liked the neighbor, too. (Note to Edie - You should have tossed her a-- out of the car.)

The other is for the beautiful images and photography,in this indulgent waste of time.

The rest of the characters were mere contrived vehicles for emotional manipulation and senseless studies in unrealistic settings. NIMBY!

I resented being taken for such a ride, but what really infuriates me, are self-impressed reviewers who have the "magic" to see into the true and deeper meaning of the film and rave about it. Yuck!
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Excruciatingly Boring and nonsensical
jerry-250-90802527 December 2011
I will never receive a sufficient explanation as to what ties together these three very boring and time-consuming vignettes. For example A man observes a woman trying to get a job in a café. He watches her as she unsuccessfully attempts to do so. This man who was previously indifferent to his own wife is now suddenly absorbed with overwhelming sympathy for a person he has known for exactly 3 minutes. He then proceeds to traipse through a very dangerous and substandard neighborhood looking for her. Are we supposed to buy this notion?

A neighbor jumps at the opportunity to take a mysterious Hollywood personality for a ride to catch the ferry. An unforeseen interruption of her day is insignificant compared with the possibility of ingratiating herself with the new VIP in the village. She is spurned. She then is transformed into a rock!

Utterly contrived and unbelievable.

This is a dreadful film, a terribly dreadful film. I alert all those who may read these reviews to avoid it if you're looking for a productive way to spend a couple of hours. A total waste of time.
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one star is too many for this time waster
dpostman23 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I wish I had read my summary before I watched this. Hope I can save someone else's hour. Here are the spoilers, the black girl can't get a job and dies, The dog and girl escape from the pervert animal abuser. The actress is trapped in the car with the annoying neighbor, but really the viewer endures the pain. I'd stop this review right here because the movie doesn't contain enough to deserve much more and if you watched the movie you've had enough punishment, but the good folks at internet movie database require ten lines. So stop reading here or you will get the same feeling after reading this that I had after watching this movie. That I wasted entirely too much time on something that I did not enjoy. Hopefully you've stopped reading and skipped this movie, if not I am sorry.
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This is a Beautiful Humble little Gem
finpaste2 April 2011
From the writer and director Eric Mendolsohn whose only other film is one of my favorite movies of the last 10yrs or so(Judy Berlin) comes this humble charmer of a film, '3 Backyards'. Here we have in the span of a single day in a mildly upper class neighborhood on a bay in Long Island, three stories unfolding at the same time but that never directly touch each other. The movie is beautiful, humble, small-scaled, well acted, and refreshing. Though it may be disceptably simple, it never deceives; the moving camera being just as intrusive as we want it to be as it floats in on the scene, the characters or the clouds or the leaves on a tree, the somewhat old fashioned dissolves used liberally yet tastefully. Three little gems; three little peeks into the lives of these folks on this particular day. My only complaint, if you can call it that, is that at an hour and a half, the movie ends too soon. I wish it could have kept on and on. One story is about a man (played by Elias Koteas) having marriage problems who when his business trip gets cancelled last minute, instead of returning home, hangs out near the airport hotel and begins to follow a mysterious woman One is about a little girl who on her way to school loses an expensive bracelet of her mother's and who must retrieve it from a seemingly dangerous backyard before she can return home. The third story concerns a lady (played by Edie Falco) who is given the honor(much to the envy of her neighbor) of driving a local, semi-famous movie actress to the waiting ferry. We go back and forth between each tale seamlessly and by the end, though the characters do not literally ever interact, there is some heart-pumping, unnameably agreeable cohesion to it all. Now that I realize this sounds awfully similar to a mundane movie review, I will stop and simply encourage anyone so inclined to go see it. It's playing now at Cinema Village on 12th st. near Union Square.
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Three movies, probably good
vchimpanzee29 May 2014
3 Backyards

It is said that "Seinfeld" was a show about nothing. This is a movie about nothing.

Another way to look at this movie is to see it as three separate short films. I have seen several hour-long shows on TV which consisted of several short films, some of which looked good enough to be Oscar-nominated. Each of these films might have been that good. It appears all three of the main characters lives in the same suburban neighborhood.

The movie begins with John and his wife on opposite ends of the kitchen table, with a loud buzzing and eerie music, at 3:30 in the morning. Something tells me this is not going to be a pleasant film.

Christina is trying on a bracelet which she shouldn't be. But she can't remove it and her school bus is here. Her mother warns her if she misses the bus, no one is going to take her to school. But she does miss the bus. There is a woman putting up signs for her lost dog and Christina believes she sees it. Or does she?

Peggy has two children and a husband, and she paints in the back yard (despite the film's title, this is the only back yard we see, unless you count the one Christina sees on the way to school) and gossips with her neighbor. Another neighbor, who lives in a nice house owned by another of Peggy's friends, doesn't socialize with others and seems to behave as if she is better than everyone else. But she asks Peggy for a ride to the ferry.

Getting back to John, his company has paid for his plane trip with frequent flier miles. There is a problem getting him on a flight that day, but if he takes another airline, the ticket he already had is non-refundable. The airport offers to let him stay in their hotel, but he lives in that city. However, we have already seen that John and his wife may not be getting along, so the hotel room may be used after all. And as a result of his difficulties, John has his first encounter with a black woman in a blue dress. She has a nice smile and a pleasant personality, but her accent and elegant delivery suggest she is African or Caribbean, and she is having trouble getting a job and may really need the money. John calls home and talks with his sick daughter Snoopy. They seem to get along and Snoopy is getting better.

Peggy learns that she shouldn't judge based on first appearances. John also learns an important lesson. I'm not sure just what the outcome of Christina's situation was. It seems to be the same type story as young Beaver Cleaver getting into trouble and trying to resolve the problem.

Whether you enjoy this movie or not depends on how open you are to independent films that have artistic value. I can be, though whether I would be depends on what they are like. This movie happens to be accessible to me, with plot lines I can get interested in. Still, this seems to be nothing more than a day in the life of three people in one town. For two of the people, it is not a typical day. And for those two people, I find myself quite interested in seeing what the result will be. But I get to the end and find myself not quite satisfied. I have to be content with the journey, and not having paid, I can be satisfied just with a a part of what I just saw. I enjoyed Christina's story the most but am not quite sure what it was.

I did see at least three really good acting performances, though all the leading actors did well too. Edie Falco reminded me of Ellen DeGeneres, though not quite that perky The short hair helped. Then there is the waitress with the attitude at the diner. But the standout performer may just have been the woman in the blue dress.

Is it worth it? Maybe.
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3 Stars (one for each backyard)
MannyInNewYork20 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Very disappointing. Three short stories that do not go anywhere at all. It all seemed so pretentious – from the American Beauty camera angles to the shrill and extremely irritating Six Feet Under rip-off sound track (I never want to hear another flute again in my life). I understand that this is a peek into the lives of three sets of people, but it really strains to be interesting and fails. The actors had nothing to work with (the script was sparse and what dialog there was didn't say much of anything), the creepy kid masturbating is a complete cheap shot and did nothing but make us uncomfortable, the crying scenes - all drama but why? You never find out and what's worse, you really don't care. I didn't see Mendelsohn's other films and I hope they're wonderful, but this was nonsense. In a world where half of the new movies are based upon video games and CGI tricks, I was jazzed about going to see something that was a bit more down to earth. Like I said, this was very disappointing.
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3 "stories" totally unrelated to each other taking place in 1 day
shirleysperling12 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
What were they thinking? This question refers not only to the characters but also to the filmmakers. There was no explanation or story development to reveal why any of the characters behaved as they did. I just saw the film at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and most of the rest of the audience was as confused as I was. The non-plots involved a little girl who happens upon a man sexually relieving himself, a woman who drives an actress to catch a ferry, and a man who leaves his wife, or does he?? I have noted this review as containing spoilers, but there really isn't anything in this so-called film to spoil!!
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Total spoiler ahead
nonox1931 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Please don't waste your time, no matter how much you love Edie Falco, unless you want to watch her be unbearably frustrated in an attempt at kind friendliness. The ostensible celebrity neighbor who asks for and gets a ride to the ferry is cold and impervious, yet at one point breaks down in a crying jag and clutches at Edie's character, yet still remains essentially mute. Jeebus! I just wanted her to say "My mother just died! Please don't make me talk about it!" The man who misses his flight wanders a poor neighborhood and has a fit of compassion for an unemployed immigrant woman, but while he's busy on his cell phone, she gets run down and killed by a car. Somehow this tragedy makes him drive back home and hug his semi-estranged wife. A young girl loses her mom's bracelet, which was found by the neighborhood pervert, but in spite of hideous ominous music, gets it back from him without being molested. Actually, this summary is WAY better than the movie.
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Over the top "artisitic" techniques, No story, Excellent Acting
jeromedsmith18 December 2011
This is such a self-consciously hokey piece of "art" that I could hardly make myself watch it. The sad thing is the acting from almost everyone - especially Edie Falco --is top rate. The story line, the editing, the HORRIBLE "noir" music, the excruciatingly long and stylized camera shots, numerous sunbursts and cheap film 101 expressions are decidedly amateurish and immature. I might have concocted something like this myself when I was 20 years old and in film school, but that - like this tawdry piece of trash -- would have been nothing more than a masturbatory indulgence for my own fledging ego, and neither a communicative nor powerful expression of emotive film making. Blech.
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Don't waste your Time
tkanaan17 July 2011
Was such a waste of time .No Aim , no sound track , no connections , not even philosophical.I wish I could buy back the time I wasted watching this film.You will get board waiting for something interesting to happen.There was one scene when Falco was trying to find out whether the lady who was in the restaurant was the same lady who got hit with the car accident and you say oh here it comes , this is the threshold of the film.The scene ends suddenly with no explanation , and absolutely no connection to the next scene. This film is really a shame on the film industry and a disrespect for all viewers because it does not respect their time.
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kjr331221 March 2011
I found this beautifully crafted movie a welcome relief from most of what's out there these days, both from big Hollywood blockbusters and pretentious, shticky indie films.

I was amazed at the depth and power of these very small stories. For me, it's all about the power of film working on every level, like a perfectly orchestrated piece of art. I thought about it for days after seeing it.

There is just something so haunting and beautiful about 3 Backyards, like a poem or a short story. And technically it's just a wonder. The word "impeccable" keeps coming to mind: impeccably acted, impeccably shot, impeccably scored, impeccably directed.

It's a very grownup, sophisticated movie. It reminded me a lot of a 70s movie.

Definitely one of my favorites of the last few years. I hope it gets seen beyond New York City.
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Unique and talented
ll-7-19357321 March 2011
I saw 3 Backyards and was amazed by the intensity of the film. The emotions that it presented and evoked were so real and almost haunting magnified by the use of music and artistic direction. The characters came to life for me. Their desperation and anguish was real. I commend the writer and actors for a unique film that gave me reason to think about it again and again. With 3 stories going on simultaneously I felt it kept the viewer alert and concentrating. The actors were intensely involved in their relationships and conveyed their emotions so strongly. Sometimes it was without words. Their expressions conveyed as much as their dialogue did.
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An enchanting cup of tea ...
tdbrooker19 March 2013
... but, obviously, not everyone's.

If you appreciate excellent acting, beautiful cinematography and don't need to be spoon-fed a message or hung up on plot, this may be a film for you.

It is daringly ambitious in that the dialog is almost non-existent, leaving the entire weight of the film in the hands of the actors and the camera and the soundtrack — and, of course, the director. All succeed marvelously as three day-in-a-life stories are laid out, each with nervous overtones and unique tension.

Searching for a unifying theme is a Rorschach test; you will make of it what you will. The inability of people to communicate on a personal level — or any level at all, for that matter — can lead to all sorts of unintended consequences, as you will see. I thought Edie Falco's acting was a bit blunt, but Elias Koteas's performance is marvelous. Embeth Davidtz conveys the most amount of mystery with the fewest amount of words — acting at its finest.

It is a wonderfully modern, realistic film, with the majority of the spoken words coming over a phone and conclusions largely unresolved. Still, I was engaged for every one of its 88 minutes. It's been a long time since a film held me so tightly.
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use your imagination
mangoallergy15 March 2011
Ever since "Crash" and "Babel," we've come to expect that multiple story lines will weave together and neatly coalesce within a two-hour running time. Life isn't really like that. "3 Backyards" explores stories that never intersect. Characters within each story reach out or withdraw under the indifferent gaze of the sun. Just as the three narratives remain apart, so do some of the characters within each one.

The most refreshing aspect of "3 Backyards" is the utter lack of backstory. There is no spoon-feeding here. People are unnamed. We know nothing about the characters except what we ourselves infer; we can only guess at the reasons for someone's grief or isolation. The camera looks directly into the face of Edie Falco's wonderfully transparent character; other people are seen in side profiles, in shadow, from a distance, behind glass.

The compelling score is a prominent feature of the film and would not be out of place in a recital hall.
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Waste of time
chipdealer8 October 2011
Parts of the soundtrack will hurt your ears. Edie I know why you where crying. You saw a work-print of the film and realized how horrible it was. If you read this review and end up watching this junk it's your own fault for wasting your life on it. I don't know who keeps green- lighting this junk but someone needs to be fired or they are working in the wrong department. The people involved in producing this crud should be cleaning theaters not empowered to present such horrible eyesores. And by the way OMG to much flute and ear piercing idiotic noise please fire the team that decided what "Music" would be presented in the film. I am not sure where you where going with this film but I hope no one ever gives you another chance at production again.
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Hysterically Nostalgic
SnowBoardersSuck24 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
If you're old enough to remember the many 70s TV shows like Marcus Welby, etc. then you may enjoy this sheerly for the soundtrack. The opening credits will have you shuffling for the movie info to verify if this was really made in the 21st century. All that pensive, slow flute and clarinet melody smacks of any series from 1970 and on and it's pretty funny and effective. Hats off to Eric Mendelssohn. What killed some of this movie for me is that, many years ago, Robert Duvall and Robert DeNiro spent the night together, and 9 months later they named their bundle of joy, Elias Koteras. Bobby and Bobby's love child is in this film and he is as lousy as usual. I didn't like him when he had hair, back when he ruined a good movie for me called The Prophecy. And I still don't like baldy as an actor. What is with other reviewers citing that he has range. The freaking guy gives the same performance in every movie. Could we care less about his little prance around town after eavesdropping on the black chick in the diner? Anyway, none of the backyards give you much to care about what happens. There's more substance in the final one minute of the movie where Mendelssohn rushes to give us closure, than in the rest of this tedious fail. But be careful. Edie Falco is crying. And she doesn't know why. Come for the music, leave for the indifference.
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Human, Not Suburban
soloncircus3 April 2014
If 3 Backyards were a graffito, it would read:

"The Bourgeoisie are kaput." -Marx

"Marx is kaput." -The Bourgeoisie

Do not look for the trite old suburban stereotype in 3 Backyards, as told in typically quaint 20th Century tales, when American suburbanites were portrayed as people condemned to purgatory for having sold their souls to a capitalist devil, suffering in angst in their pointless "consumer-based society" in "little boxes all the same" as they vainly seek a desolate "American Dream."

Do not look for this two-dimensional vision in the desperate young job-seeking African woman in the film who bravely is trying to carve out for herself a fourth backyard there.

The people in the three tales from three backyards are three dimensional, and très sympathiques. They are human and frail as they work their way through their own personal demons on a typical day in a typical suburb, where the living looks pretty good.

The tale of the little girl who navigates herself through a day-long snafu is nothing less than a good episode of Leave It to Beaver, from an era before it was cool to bash suburbs.

If the life of the suburban housewife "artiste" in a second tale were so tragic and bleak because of the suburbs, why was the exotic movie star the one who started the cry-fest?

Though a marital crisis in a third tale could turn out tragic, the love and poignancy among the family bode otherwise.

In the facing panels of this triptych tale the scale of human tragedy is "bittersweet," at worst. Life can be this way, regardless of locale.

Disclaimer: The writer of this review is a suburb-o-phobe, with nothing but bad memories of infrequenting car-centric living areas -- but there is no call to get political about the people who like them.
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I am confused by all the "hate" for this film.....
Sheabyshea5 September 2013
I don't understand all the negative reviews for this film. I found it to be really good. I think a lot of the problem is that many people look too hard for things and miss out on what they are actually looking at. I am a "people watcher" and to me that is what this film was like....sitting back and observing people and their lives around you, only with dialog that you wouldn't be benefited with if you were actually observing. Since childhood I have always looked around at houses when driving through a neighborhood and wondered and imagined what was happening in each one...Everyone lives there, but they all have their own lives and they may never cross paths with the person 3 doors down, yet they have a connection due to their neighborhood. That's how this film and the 3 stories felt to me. They connected but then at the same time,they did not....but, if a viewer is looking too hard to try and make the connections they are over thinking everything and missing out on what was actually happening, which was 3 beautiful story lines about life. If you hated it, watch it again (God, I love Netflix) and view it without analyzing how there is a connection, just watch and feel during the stories.
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we all have wants - this is 3
cekadah5 January 2013
everybody seeks something they will never get. if you do get what you want there just may be a price to pay.

a husband wants out of a marriage but lacks the will to escape. a child wants a beautiful bracelet - gets it - looses it - it's not hers to have now she must find it. a woman wants to be a chummy friend with a well know actress - the actress will have none it.

here we have three wonderfully told stories of three people who just might be neighbors. their backyard is their personal life. each one seeks something to possibly make them happy. along the way they discover otherwise. the road to happiness is full of pits, falls, and other desires (think what dorothy said in the 'wizard of oz' - "if you can't find happiness in your own backyard you'll never find it".

the backyards is within these characters and their personal lives - we each have one. this movie is just a look at three.

a wonderful bit of cinema! how anyone cannot be touched by these 3 brief stories is beyond me. and each one has closure - it's a complete movie start to finish! bravo!
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