Thursday, June 23, 2011

Third Star review for Cinematique

Third Star

Starring Tom Burke, Benedict Cumberbatch, JJ Feild, Adam Robertson
Directed by Hattie Dalton
Written by Vaughan Sivell
2010 (UK)

Reviewed by Lynnette Porter

As does its predecessor (Africa United) in the From Britain With Love series, Third Star revolves around a group of friends who learn as much about themselves as each other during an often-difficult journey. For terminally ill James, “the walk” is the trip of a lifetime, reuniting him with his closest friends and the place he loves most on earth, Barafundle Bay in South Wales. But each of James’ friends has his own secrets and turmoil to deal with.

What could have been a downer about Death or a self-important lecture about The Meaning of Life instead turns into an often-irreverent exploration of friendship. The film offers some heart-to-heart discussions, but these fireside chats emphasize the friends’ different philosophies and approaches to dealing with their less-than-perfect lives, rather than become mired in emotion. Although their plans on the walk, as in life, go awry, these friends gain strength from each other.

If there is a flaw to Third Star, it is that symbolism sometimes is handled with a heavier hand than necessary to make a point. In one scene, for example, Miles (JJ Feild) discovers his watch has been stolen by a boy dressed as an angel for a local festival. The symbolic scene highlights Miles’ fear of losing the most important people in his life. The angels, quite literally, steal his time with those he loves.

The beautifully raw Welsh coast also may sometimes provide an obvious analogy between Nature and the nature of life and death, but frequent shots of the gorgeous scenery can certainly be forgiven. Third Star lovingly frames Wales’ rocky shores and moody sea.

The performances make the film. Tom Burke’s Davy is a devoted caretaker; JJ Feild’s Miles is the friend who stayed away until almost too late; Adam Robertson’s Bill is a caged free spirit. All are excellent in their roles and provide balance to this story of friendship that transcends death. As James, Benedict Cumberbatch soars. He makes James human—with regrets and fears but also humor and hope.

Quiet, character-driven scenes, often missing from blockbusters, become some of the most memorable in an actor’s repertoire. Catch Cumberbatch in roles like this now; he will be on American moviegoers’ radar after “big” films like War Horse and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy arrive in the U.S. in the next few months. Although the actors in Third Star may have higher profile roles in upcoming blockbusters (JJ Feild is in Captain America, for example), their talent shines in this lovely independent film.

Writer Vaughan Sivell’s filming diary and blogs about the actors and characters ( are well worth reading before you see the film. Both Sivell and director Hattie Dalton interact with the film’s fans on Third Star’s Facebook page, and they and their fans clearly believe in this film. It’s well worth a look to see why Third Star is gaining an international fan following.

Third Star shines as a film about friendship and life. Although its title may suggest its rating, I give it four stars out of five.

Dr. Lynnette Porter writes books about television and film and teaches humanities courses at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.