Third Star is one of the most beautiful movies about death and friendship and life I’ve ever seen. The Welsh film is directed by Hattie Dalton and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Burke, J.J. Feild, and Adam Roberson.
The basic story is that four friends are taking one last trip to Barafundle Bay before one of their number — James, played by Benedict Cumberbatch — dies of cancer. He’s just celebrated his 29th birthday, and everyone knows he won’t be around for another.
They take a special cross-country wheeled chair, because he’s too weak to walk the several day journey, and they take his medications and morphine and some special things like a tree one of them grew from seed and wants to plant at the Bay.
The film progresses a little like a road-trip movie — without the car — with montages of travel across the beautiful Pembrokeshire landscape breaking up each segment of events; a fight at a pub, an encounter with a beachcomber, and so on.
The interactions between the characters really play off perfectly as a group of friends who’ve known each other forever; they joke, they fight, they tease, they carry on. Nothing feels forced or overdone, it all seems genuine. I love seeing relationships done right in movies!
The moments of each scene in Third Star really counterpoint each other well, too. As in real life, the tragic parts mix and blend with humor. Life continues in the face of sadness, and there are absurdities happening even when it feels like nothing will ever be funny again. Death and dying bring out the whole gambit of emotions, from anger to sorrow to laughter. So it goes.
I’ve gone through losing my best friend at too early an age. It was under entirely different circumstances, but some things are true no matter what the trappings. I could understand what they were feeling in this film, because I’ve been to a similar place. The most beautiful part of Third Star to me were how they were able to accurately capture that surreal time in life when a loved one is dying and surrounded by friends.
This is a quiet and understated sort of story, which is exactly as it should be. It’s showing intimate things, both death and friendship, and the strain and relation those things have on those experiencing them. This film feels honest. There’s nothing noble about what these people are going through, but there’s nothing ordinary about it either. It’s real and it’s what happens, the good and the bad and the strange.
This story really hit home for me, especially right at the end. Yet I didn’t find it to be sad or depressing. I did cry, quite a bit, but it was good tears. It was kind of… death affirming, I suppose, though that might not be quite what I mean.
You’ll have to watch it to find out.
(And yes, the title is a Peter Pan reference.)