A Morphine Toast: Third Star

Third Star poster

“I’m twenty-nine, today. Won’t see thirty.”

Alright, Wanderers? Feeling cheerful? Excellent; if you want to keep that feeling, go and read something else. Don’t get me wrong, Third Star has its beautifully light-hearted, high-spirited moments, but for the most part the film is weighed down by that quote above, which comes right at the start from the lips of our protagonist, James. And that doesn’t damage it at all, it makes it more profoundly moving, heightens the highs and deepens the lows, but it might bring you down a little – so if you want to be cheerful for a while, well, that’s your warning there. Skedaddle, and come back when you’re up for a little cathartic heart-wreckage.

Those of you who are left are probably prepared for an emotional ride, which is good, because Third Star will certainly give you one. The story follows James and his friends Miles, Davy and Bill as they take a roadtrip to the beach with a single aim in mind; giving James the time of his life before that life ends. At least, it seems that they have that one goal in mind… but any group of young men on a journey are bound to have more than one thing to think about and motives are never as clear-cut as you might think. Through a series of camping misadventures, medical scares and crazy capers, the four men learn more about themselves, and each other, leading up to a conclusion that literally took my breath away for several seconds.

It’s a tough story, being about a terminally-ill character, so it’s important to note that it is in very capable hands. James is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who rises to the challenge admirably, and the director is BAFTA winner Hattie Dalton (the DVD comes with two more of her short films, which are worth the watch). JJ Feild, Tom Burke and Adam Robertson round out the main cast, and they do it well. To carry an entire film largely on the performances of just four men is impressive, and they pull it off.

“The sickness is mine, but the tragedy is theirs.”

If you’re into scenery and cinematography, as well as symbolism, you’ll enjoy this. It’s worth watching twice in order to properly appreciate these elements, because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to step back from the story the first time to analyse the way a scene is composed. The film has the effect of pulling you along on the adventure with them, and it does often feel as if you’re a very quiet, reserved fifth character, just sitting on the sidelines with your mates on a mad camping adventure. This really adds to the emotional punch of the punchy moments and brings you back up when it’s time for some boyish larking about.

I’m not sure what else I can tell you about the film without utterly ruining it, to be honest. It’s a strange mixture of two extremes – comedy and tragedy, life and death, truth and lies – but it works and it’s not a film you’ll walk away from and easily forget. It’s uncomfortable, at times, but it’s real, and it will grab at your heartstrings in a way only really good cinema can. Honestly, if what I’ve already said hasn’t made you want to see it, I’m not sure what will. Just don’t schedule it in the middle of the movie marathon you’re having for someone’s birthday party. It might hurt to watch, but you come away from it a different person, and I’ll always recommend a film that can do that.

I’d give this film four out of five, because I haven’t quite forgiven it yet for breaking my heart.

Eleanor Musgrove (will follow you down to the red oak tree)

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2 Responses to A Morphine Toast: Third Star

  1. Maria says:

    I adore that movie. To me, it is a wonderful and deep description of friendship and dignity. The development, this small group makes up to the point were they can be honest to each other, is convincing and therefore well thought through. Every scene has its reason and adds to the bigger picture. I have to admit that, yes, the story has a bitter end but I
    actually wouldn’t want it to end any other
    way. Benedict Cumberbatch gives James’ character soul and depth in a way that I have rarely witnessed in similar films.

    • Absolutely. It’s a fitting end to a very moving journey – at least, that’s what we decided in the FW office as we all reached for the tissue box at the same time… Thanks for getting in touch! -Ed.

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