Making the most of life- “Third Star” (2010) Review

I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of the low-budget, independent film “Third Star” (2010) at my local cinema in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre (which is an amazing cinema by the way!); after I had viewed the film I stayed behind for a very fun and informative Q&A session with the writer and producer Vaughan Sivell and actor Adam Robertson who plays the character Bill in the film. “Third Star” is one of those hidden gems of a  film that should be more well known than it actually is. The plot is simplistic and easy to relate to. Its also one of those films that really makes you think into the deeper meaning of life. The plot centres on James (played by the incredibly talented Benedict Cumberbatch) who has terminal cancer; along with three of his lifelong friends, Davy (played by Tom Burke), Miles (played by JJ Field) and as previously stated Bill (Adam Robertson) take a trip down to his favourite place, the stunning coastal area of Barfundle Bay in West Wales. Its a peaceful area away from the pressures and technologies of typical Western society, where they are able to think about what place they’re at in their lives and whether they are satisfied with what they have and whether there is something more out there for them. Vaughan Sivell stated that the film is not a film about cancer, even though we are watching the protagonist suffer from it, he says the main theme of the film is about friendship and how we see ourselves, I don’t actually recall the film addressing what type of cancer James has. Vaughn specifically wrote his characters to all be 29 years of age, his reason for this was based on the notion we have of enjoying being in our 20’s and the things we feel we should have achieved throughout this decade of our lives such as have a good job, settle down, get married and have a family. I felt the film was an interesting comment on how British people in general deal with tragedy, when things are bad we tend to turn to humour in order to lighten the mood and a lot of the film focuses on the main characters having fun and joking around despite the underlying conflicts they all have with life and each other. Vaughan Sivell also said that when the film was shown to American audiences they were more open about their emotions commenting on how the film personally affected them, which is an interesting culture difference. The film was actually very well received  in the US as they liked seeing the British quality of sensibility portrayed on screen.

The Cinematography was absolutely breathtaking; I loved how it focused on the little things like birds flying in the sky or a feather falling or the ocean waves crashing, creating visual imagery to portray the theme throughout the film of stepping back for a moment and appreciating the little things in life. We do take everything for granted so watching James’s struggle and the thought of him never seeing the small but beautiful things in life again creates an absolutely devastating tone. I found the atmosphere of the whole film to be very melancholy; it however had the right balance of humour and sadness to invoke an empathetic reaction in the audience. I felt the characters could easily represent people we all know in life, allegedly they were criticised as being “snobby” but this isn’t the case, Adam Robertson pointed out that the film industry generally wants to see characters that are either gangsters or people who live on council estates or period pieces which in their own right are all relevant, however it is refreshing to see characters that don’t really fall into the general stereotype and go beyond our expectations, we don’t actually get an insight into their upbringing’s as such, they are simply four intelligent guys just talking about life; they are the sort of people that in real life I would actually want to get to know and be friends with, I think the film represented the kind of people that I have personally been searching for. The natural flow of dialogue is in place to emphasise the normality of these characters. I thought the most complex of characters was probably Miles as he displayed genuine fear around his friend and wanted to completely ignore the fact he had cancer as a result of being affected by his own father’s death years prior, by the end of the film I do think he confronts his fear by committing the most poignant act (without giving too much away). Bill’s character is interesting as he’s the one who isn’t content with where he is in life with his job or relationship but just makes do with what he has despite the constant criticism from his friends, mainly James. Finally Davy is the character who puts others before himself and perhaps in a sense fusses over James, but he looks after him the most. All the actors performances are incredibly strong, however Benedict Cumberbatch was just incredible portraying James’s pain and as a viewer you really do feel sorry for him, the scene that sticks in my mind is his expression when his friends put on a firework display for him and he just expresses amazement which is almost child-like. I think he’s one of the best British actors of our time.

Vaughan Sivell explains that the film’s concept emerged from the idea of questioning morality, he said that there are scientists out there that place bets on the longevity of the human life span and allegedly it has been proven that humans can live till at least 150 years, therefore if this is the case then do we really have to succeed and have all these things in our lives when we’re in our 20’s. There is a scene in the film in which James catches a white feather, Vaughn tied that image in with the white feather being the symbol of cowardice and the idea of the four feathers as a metaphor for his characters e.g. one will get them to their destination, one will look after them while they’re there and the other will be the one to do him in; (here is some more info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_feather).

While the film isn’t anything new in terms of story, as there are many films that consist of going on a soul searching journey and people wanting to find themselves, I still enjoyed its simplicity and effectiveness and how it creates deeper thoughts about life in general, the characters were also interesting and well written. The film hasn’t been able to promote itself through posters and various marketing schemes and has been purely fan driven, so I would definitely recommend this film as its probably one of the most beautiful films in terms of story and visuals that I have seen in a long time and possibly one of the best Welsh films.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

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