Three young men accompany a fourth who’s dying of cancer to the Welsh coast in male weepie “Third Star,” a feature debut for acclaimed shorts helmer Hattie Dalton that means well but tries too hard. Lushly lensed but marred by hammy perfs, unconvincing dialogue and trite dramatic shape, this tale of one last boys’ own adventure won’t do much more than twinkle dimly on the distribution circuit. Despite the paucity of women onscreen, pic might play better to femme auds, especially in ancillary.
Only 29 when he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer, aspiring writer James (Benedict Cumberbatch) hopes to see a favorite strip of coastline, Barafundle Bay, one last time. He invites his three closest friends to join him on the journey: recently laid-off executive Davy (Tom Burke), TV cameraman Bill (Adam Robertson) and financial whiz kid Miles (JJ Feild). Because the site they’re headed to is impossible to reach by car, the four travel over land with a sort of souped-up wheelchair-cum-rickshaw, big enough to carry James, their camping gear and food.
Although the men encounter a few eccentric locals along the way (most memorably Hugh Bonneville as a loopy beachcomber and Eros Vlahos, from “Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang,” as a wicked urchin), pic is essentially a four-hander. At first, it’s all jokes and nostalgic recollections, but James insists on getting a few truths off his chest, much to the others’ initial discomfort. Miles’ sarcastic complaint — “This walk has been like a trip with a sick, white Oprah” — would rep one of pic’s best lines, if it weren’t for the fact that it sounds too much like a scripted zinger.
Indeed, most of pic’s problems originate with the overdeveloped screenplay by Vaughan Sivell; one can almost feel the scribe’s hand at work when it’s revealed that one character is in love with another’s sister in order to generate a bit of middle-act drama.
The four up-and-coming central thesps struggle hard to make the material work, but Dalton’s direction isn’t up to the challenges of reining them in when needed or coaxing more naturalistic delivery, and the results are a bit shouty and histrionic. Film reps a particularly wasted opportunity to launch Cumberbatch, so good as a supporting baddie in “Starter for 10” and “Atonement,” as a male lead. It doesn’t help that he looks a little too robust for someone on the verge of death, and a line or two explaining why he still has a lustrous head of hair (didn’t he have any chemotherapy?) would not have gone amiss.
Tech credits are pro, but special mention is due lenser Carlos Catalan for his work here; given how fine his work also is in Paul Andrew Williams “Cherry Tree Lane,” Catalan was arguably the Edinburgh Film Festival’s MVP.