Chosen as part of the 2010 Edinburgh Film Festival’s Closing Gala, Third Star is a touching story about aspirations, regrets and the importance of friendship in the lives of a group of twenty-something’s. James (Benedict Cumberbatch) a writer suffering from a form of terminal cancer and facing the prospect that he will fail to see his thirtieth birthday, decides to take a trip with a group of his three closet friends to Barafundle Bay, the site of one of his earliest childhood memories. Along the way they find themselves confronted with a series of hilarious mishaps as they are forced to come to terms, not only with James’s illness, but with the direction that their lives have taken.
What is wonderful about Third Star is that it never falls prey to a gloomy kind of sentimentality that would have been all too easy, given its subject matter. Instead BAFTA winning director Hattie Dalton concentrates on capturing the competing and shifting dynamics between the four men. The ever reliable Benedict Cumberbatch, hot on the heels of his successful run in the Danny Boyle directed theatre production of Frankenstein and television drama Sherlock, doesn’t disappoint in the central role. However the real credit goes to what is essentially an ensemble cast of talented British actors (which originally included Tom Hardy, who eventually had to drop out in order to star in a little known film called Inception) such as Tom Burke, JJ Field and Adam Robertson. Hugh Bonnerville also makes a brief but memorable cameo appearance as a beachcomber, searching for a set of brown Darth Vader Star Wars figures that he believes have washed up on the shoreline. The entire journey is set against the backdrop of a breathtaking Welsh landscape, which director of photography Carlos Catalan shows in all its glory.
In the Q&A session that followed the screening at the Warwick Art Centre, both Vaughan Sivell and producer Kelly Broad discussed the difficulty of getting finance for such a film, with distributors unwilling to take a risk on a ‘cancer film’. Taking questions from the audience, they spoke of the dilemma that these three friends were faced with at the end of the movie and the secret they would have to keep for the rest of their lives. For this generation in particular, Sivell said, friendships have now become a kind of substitute family (one we get to choose) much more so than in the past. When asked what he was working on next, Sivell spoke of his desire to continue making films that were writer and actor led, rather than director-led as is typical in the film industry. Either way this independent movie is a credit to the British Film industry and I look forward to seeing what writer Vaughan Sivell has to offer us next.