Inspired by the late 19th century play La Ronde, 360 offers a compelling story of human experience composed of intertwined subplots whose protagonists do not know each other and yet are always just a connection or two away from a fellow human. Just as with Altman’s Shortcuts and Haggis’ Crash, 360, directed by Fernando Meirelles is for the most part a successful endeavour into this tricky movie genre.
The movie opens in Vienna as a slimy owner of an online escort service takes pictures of his latest recruit, a young Slovakian girl Mirkha (Lucia Siposova). Mirkha then goes on her first “assignment” which happens to be an attractive English businessman Michael (Jude Law). While on his way to approach the young woman at the bar, Michael is intercepted by his colleagues one of whom makes the bet that the woman is a prostitute and who later finds out that Michael was supposed to be her client and uses this fact to blackmail Michael and get him sign a contract with his firm.
After that, we meet a smitten Parisian dentist (Jamel Debbouze ) who follows a woman in a read barrette, the object of his affection, on her way to the airport. We then observe him confiding in his therapist that the woman, Valentina, is his co-worker and that she is married but he is hopelessly in love with her.
There is Anthony Hopkin’s father whose daughter had vanished years ago after the two had a fight that stemmed from the man’s infidelity. The protagonist’s anguish and feeling of guilt over his daughter’s disappearance have now taken on a permanent, numbing quality. The protagonist travels around the US still hoping to find his daughter. During one such travel, he meets a young Brazilian woman named Laura (Maria Flor) who in turn is en route to her home country after she had followed her photographer boyfriend to the US just to discover that he is entangled in an affair with an English fashion editor (the exquisitely beautiful Rachel Weiz) who is also Jude Law’s character’s wife. The elderly man and the young woman form a quick bond at the airport as their respective flights are being delayed. Inadvertently, Laura gives him a solution for his future spiritual and physical life’s direction – to let go (of his pain) and keep living his life.
There are several other subplots that, quite seamlessly, flow one into the other and form a convincing fabric of human interactions, flaws, and weaknesses, beauty and strength.
Aside from the fact that the movie is engaging and attuned to protagonists’ inner lives, I liked the director’s tendency to avoid conventional resolutions (i.e., Hopkin’s protagonist never learns about his daughter’s fate, the dentist rejects the woman he is in love with, etc.) Although at times, this desire to avoid conventional endings seemed a tad forced.
I also loved that the director who is Brazilian, did not cast English-speaking actors to play the parts of the French, Russians or Slovakians (something that Hollywood is notoriously known for). For each “international” role, Meirelles cast a native speaker and, apparently, a resident of a respective country (a popular Russian actor, Vladimir Vdovichenkov for the part of a Russian driver to-the shady Russian businessman, a Slovakian actress Gabriella Marcinkiva for a part the sister of the Slovakian escort recruit mentioned in the beginning of the review).
The director also did not make any difference between how much screentime he allocated for his star English and American actors (Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins) and the virtually unknown actors. It is actually interesting that the latter category of actors received more screen time than their celebrity counterparts.
While the film does not exactly explore the meaning of human interactions and lives on the Bergman’s level, it is a welcome respite from the the template Hollywood movies.