Based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1964 novel of the same name (which isn’t one of her Tom Ripley stories), this is a character portrait of two fairly petty criminals and one woman who gets caught up in the middle between them. Chester (Viggo Mortensen) and Colette MacFarland (Kirsten Dunst) are married and holidaying in Athens in the early 1960’s where they meet tour guide Rydal (Oscar Isaac), who is busy skimming extra profits off of his naive tourists. Chester has accumulated large amounts of money through various scams, and some of the people who lost their savings have hired a private eye to get it back for them – queue an accidental murder and the three central characters trying to evade capture and secure new passports via Rydal’s contact, although both he and Colette are unaware the P.I. has actually died.
Rydal sees an opportunity to squeeze a fat cat for money before realizing he’s in over his head, and indeed he also has an eye for the pretty Colette, who is in turn not exactly pleased with her husband for landing her in the current situation. What unfolds is an almost inevitable story of jealousy and doubt, anger and fear, but it’s well brought home to us, with an understandable balance very well distributed between all the characters, and a good exposé of that moment probably everyone has experienced when three really is a crowd. Taking its title of course from the fact January is named after the (literally) two faced Roman god of transitions, Janus, this adaptation is the feature film directorial debut of Hossein Amini, who also adapted the screenplay, and as such it is quite impressive, being well paced, set and acted right from the very beginning.