Thursday, June 24, 2010

EIFF Premiere: "Third Star" (2010)

With "Third Star" as the closing night gala, directed by Hattie Dalton who won a BAFTA for her 2004 short "The Banker," the festival goes out with more of a whimper than a bang. The film is a buddy comedy but also a wrenching drama as four friends prepare for the passing of one among them who is terminally ill from cancer. When touching on such a subject, it's hard not to lean toward putting on the schmaltz, and Dalton's film skirts past that thin line just before falling over.

James (Benedict Cumberbatch) has been ill for quite some time, ten years or so, and while he still has enough strength, his three friends take him on a trip to his favorite place: Barafundle Bay. Miles (JJ Feild) almost didn't come on the trip to begin with, Bill (Adam Robertson) has issues committing to the women in his life and Davy (Tom Burke) is overprotective of James and has the insatiable desire to feel wanted. They all say their goodbyes and head off their way with a yellow cart for James, plenty of luggage and even someone's tall-standing plant.

Their trek along the country and seasides is gorgeously shot with frequent silhouettes of the four men and the cart against the magnificent scenery as they push their way along. A moment at an outdoor pub sets the tone nicely as the four men get into a brawl, and we realize we're essentially watching a group of 30-year-old men recapturing their youth. An encounter with a strange fisherman looking for brown Darth Vader action figures is a highlight along with a fireworks display with humorously disastrous results.

During the more intimate conversations between the men, the film begins addressing cancer as a realistic subject without playing to be too sentimental about it. It's a refreshing take, one that is exchanged between James and Miles. It's harsh but truthful as Miles tells James cancer is no excuse to be an ego-maniac. In moments like these, the four actors really shine; however, it would have been beneficial for the film to be a bit longer to dig even deeper into these characters to feel more invested in them. We never fully know any one of these individuals enough to compensate for what's to come.

More investment would have made the ending of "Third Star" much easier to take, which takes an abruptly sharp turn into sentimentalism that borderlines unintentional melodrama. The rest of the film's enjoyably bittersweetness did not prepare me to have my heartstrings tugged at so furiously, and it ended up evoking less of an impact than what was obviously intended. Still, the movie is a nice blend of comedy and pathos that falls just a little too heavy-handedly.

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