Three Floors – Review

With Nanni Moretti’s new film the acclaimed director takes a look at life in an apartment building in Rome over the course of a decade. On the face of it, the film appears to be a bit of a light piece. It is actually a deceptively profound look at modern living and relationships that evolve between families and also those who live above and below them.

The film literally starts with a bang. A young pregnant woman comes out of her apartment block and is almost run over by an out of control car. Narrowly missing her, the car then hits a pedestrian and ploughs into the building. The driver is the son of residents in the building. This act introduces the main characters of the story and the film goes on from there to explore the lives of all involved in the initial drama.

The story unfolds in short sections that cover the three different households within the building. The driver of the car was drunk and this proves to be the last straw for his parents who refuse to help his court case after the woman he hits passes away. The pregnant woman gives birth and starts to raise her child alone as the father is away. She is concerned as her own mother started to have mental issues when her first child was born. The family whose apartment was hit by the car are trying to find out if an elderly neighbour was inappropriate with their daughter.

Each section is given screen time allowing the drama to unfold at a good pace. With it switching between elements it keeps the tension in the various situations going. There is enough in each part to develop the characters which are just enough to keep you invested in the story. It soon becomes apparent that the stories are not going to be linked in any meaningful way and the close proximity of each tale is the binding force. The full gamut of human experience is covered within the film with love, loneliness, obsession and pain all to the fore with so much more going on as well.

As well as three households and three stories, the film covers a decade in the lives of the characters in the film. This is a very clever mechanism as it allows aspects of the film to be dealt with without spending precious screen time on them. A few lines of dialogue explains what has occurred and where we are at now. There was obviously a decision made that the main characters would not change in any way during this decade. So no hairstyle changes, no facial hair or ageing make-up is here at all. Given that this is a lower budget film it is a wise decision to avoid anything that would pull you out of the moment. Nothing worse than a grey wig to spoil the mood.

As an ensemble, the cast is uniformly good. There is no particular stand out performances in that no one actor goes over the top. This isn’t a criticism of any of the actors, far from it.  The mood for the whole film is one of low key domestic drama. All the characters are meant to be normal, regular people so having an over the top performance would jar with the tone that the film is trying to set.

Given the amount of story involved, Three Floors is a very quick two-hour watch that will have you invested in the human drama from the very start.


John McArthur
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