One of the saddest truths of life is that it will go on without us when we die, no matter how hard that fact is for us to believe. This is the central message of the EIFF’s closing film this year, the story of a young man with terminal cancer who is determined to take one last camping trip with his three best friends.
James (a powerful performance by Benedict Cumberbatch) has been living at home in Wales with his parents and his friend Davy (Tom Burke), a quiet former PR man who moved in when he lost his job, in order to help out with the day-to-day care of James. Bill (Adam Robertson), a lapsed hippy and dissatisfied daytime TV cameraman, arrives to help celebrate James’ birthday with the long-awaited trip, as does Miles (JJ Field), an aspiring but blocked writer who is also the son of an unnamed but extremely famous author. The four set off on their hike, struggling with the fact that James can’t walk very far any more and is taking morphine for the pain, as well as the fact that there is a lot they’d rather not talk about.
If that sounds depressing, it actually isn’t. Third Star is a fine example of something that British cinema does almost better than any other in the world – treating a difficult subject with the seriousness it deserves, as well as a light touch that elevates a potentially grim story into the realms of the charming and delightful. This is the first full-length feature from director Hattie Dalton, but her confidence and vision lead the viewer on a path that is sad, funny and ultimately heartbreaking.
Cumberbatch also deserves a great deal of credit, delivering a multi-layered character who wants to shake his friends out of their torpor and force them to find happiness in their lives, who is spiky and irritating and funny and brave, and so very tired of hurting all the time. If there isn’t at least a BAFTA nomination on the way for him, there is no justice in the world.
Witty, touching and perfectly balanced, Third Star is set to become a guiding light in modern British cinema, and a beacon of hope for its continuing success.
Saturday 26 June, 21.30, Cineworld