Three Peaks is a new German drama film written and directed by Jan Zabeil about a different type of love triangle. The movie is about a man who, spending time with his girlfriend and her young son in the Italian Dolomites, hopes to become a part of their family, creating tension between the three when the boy disappears into the mountains.
The story of the film is relatively unique, but in a way that is disappointingly straightforward. The movie promises a blend of family drama and a survival thriller, but is ultimately unable to deliver either because of its attempts to balance the two very different genres. The film simply doesn’t have the suspense to work as a thriller, but the tension isn’t in the right place for the melodrama to be compelling.
One of the reasons why the movie doesn’t work as well as it should is that the characters aren’t well-developed enough. It is obvious that all of the characters have good motivations — the protagonist wants to be a positive figure in the life of his girlfriend’s son and the boy wants to protect his mother — but the film doesn’t emphasize this clash as much as it should.
Instead, the movie focuses on the idea of resentment. Although this does lend an element of realism to the film, as it is common for a child to resent his or her single parent’s new partner, it is also heavily-trodden ground. Had the movie explored the more unique and nuanced protective elements of the character’s personality, it would have been far more interesting.
Despite the flaws in the film’s script, the pacing is actually quite good. The runtime is right around an hour and a half, and it breezes by. The conversations flow naturally, and their content is interesting enough to keep you mostly invested in the story, even if you aren’t totally on board with the characters.
Another thing that helps make this movie feel more compelling is that the actors do a great job in their roles. Alexander Fehling, Bérénice Bejo, and Arian Montgomery have great chemistry together and are a majority of the reason why the dynamic works. Montgomery, the child actor, is particularly talented, showing an impressive amount of difficult emotions for someone so young.
The visuals in the film are also quite good. The movie’s mountainous setting works quite well as it looks so cold, mirroring the emotion of much of the film. Zabeil’s use of color and lighting is great, with the movie going from bright and warm in the beginning when everything is going well to more muted and cool when things start to go wrong.
Three Peaks may not hit all of the intended targets, but it still shows a lot of potential. The good parts of this film are really good, so hopefully Zabeil’s next project will be absolutely phenomenal.
Three Peaks opens in theaters on June 28.