Eye For Film >> Movies >> Third Star (2010) Film Review
Reviewed by: Chris
Third Star could almost be described as viewer reverse-engineered. Once you’ve seen the ending, it’s fairly easy not only to justify the tedium of the rest of the film but to see meaning and relevance in material that almost sent you despairing to the nearest emergency exit. Several people walked out in the press screening I attended, which is unusual. If I had just gone out for a nice evening’s entertainment, I’m sure I would have headed off or even used my seat to grab a quick nap. I’m relating this in case you find yourself in a similar dilemma: if you do, my message is, don't leave before the end.
Four 30-something male friends set off for a remote area of Wales. One of them, James, is seriously ill with cancer. His mates are taking him for a holiday send-off in his favourite part of the world. External events soon make it plain they have bitten off more than they can chew. They have to surmount their insecurities to come clean and build a deeper level of trust based on total honesty. But that is only the start...
This is a film dedicated to the iPod generation. The society of urbanites who are more concerned with whether their iPhone will sync across several platforms than with matters of life and death or even whether relationships need to be ideal when most people can, after all, “just settle for something that will do” and so let them get on with the day-to-day business of ‘life.’
Perhaps some people can relate better than I can to the bulk of this movie (some people did chuckle at the occasional humour). I love the beautiful opening, with the air blowing through the grass, the seawater, the fire of birthday candles flaming and then being extinguished. From thereon it seemed all horribly downhill until the end scenes – which, in total contrast, induce a state of shock.
Characters are routinely introduced, their backstories rather artificially introduced into the dialogue. They go off on their rather boring adventure, have boring little interludes such as a village fête turning into a brawl, and a meeting with a daft beachcomber searching for washed-up Darth Vader memorabilia. Of his parents, James says, “Sickness may be mine but the tragedy is theirs.” And mine too, I think, for sitting through this stuff. Hair-pulling inanities abound in the trivial conversation. How can intelligent men mouth off such superficial rubbish? I allow myself to be distracted by the nice (if totally unoriginal) sunset photography. Another bit of pleasantly contrived photography comes up as they get to their destination – dancing and splashing in the sea, sunlight reflecting and sparkling (whoopee) classically off the water. Sound and vision is generally faultless, I should mention, and there’s some good incidental music. What a waste (or so I thought).
Then the plotwinder kicks in with a vengeance. Dilemmas presented with frighteningly diminishing time-scales. Third Star is here fulfilling a major practical use of narrative art: making us ask, what would I do in such a situation? Any preliminary conclusions are rapidly challenged, as events shift the goal posts. Superficiality in the long lead-up becomes both a necessary factor for the denouement catching us off-guard; as well as providing commentary on how we push important questions aside for another day that (we think) never comes.
Third Star was shot in Wales on a budget of £450,000 using Super 16. Talented director Hattie Dalton and deviously clever scriptwriter Vaughan Sivell have, by accident or design, done annoyingly well. If you find yourself in a cinema watching their film, I advise you to either enjoy it or sit through it until the end. Don't give up. Like James, ‘feel the fight’ in yourself one last time. You know it’ll be worth it.
I am reminded of another excellent movie from a totally different genre that succeeded in misleading audiences just as as well as this one. Horror fans will recall Audition, an apparently laid-back, low-budget Asian effort. It lulled me into a sense of being able to handle with one eye shut anything such patently ‘struggling filmmakers’ might come up with, only to revise my opinions with large helpings of humble pie that stuck firmly in my throat. I can’t quite put Third Star in that category, but it is a damn clever movie. Even the less-than-shattering revelations mid-film, retrospectively become like the car backfiring in a noir movie (heralding a gun going off) or a door slamming in a slasher movie (heralding a bigger fright to come). But Third Star’s issues are not from other-worldy fiction: they are a commentary on how we live, and how we routinely refuse to communicate on deep levels until almost too late.Reviewed on: 28 Jun 2010