“So I raise a morphine toast to you. And, should you remember that it’s the anniversary of my birth, remember that you were loved by me and you made my life a happy one. And there’s no tragedy in that.”
These were the parting words of James, the protagonist of Third Star. They’re also the words that left me heartbroken and sobbing – in the best way possible.
I’ve seen .gif files of this movie floating around on tumblr, and since I really enjoy Benedict Cumberbatch’s (who played James) acting, I decided to search the movie out – NOT an easy feat, let me tell you. I finally found it on youtube, in semi-good quality with Spanish subtitles, but hey, it worked. You can find the first part here: it’s split into 8 parts total. If you can find better quality with English subtitles, congratulations! Anyway, it’s about 90 minutes long, and while my family was having a lull in the afternoon, I plugged in my headphones and watched it on my ipad (my sound is broken on my laptop).
This movie is not action packed, nor blatantly profound. It’s not written in a straight line: the plot isn’t really there until the very end. To put it basically, it’s the story of four friends who take a camping trip: the last wish of James, who is dying of cancer. Nothing ground-breaking, and the focus is more on the relationships between the men, and how they react to James’ impending death. I think, though, that that’s the power of this movie: it’s about moments in life, joyful moments, painful moments, and everything in between.
There are, of course, hints at the severity of James’ illness: we see him taking morphine frequently, and he has to be pushed in a cart because it’s too painful to walk. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget this fact as you laugh along with their antics. But then, you remember, and those joyous moments become so precious, because you know that these are some of the last in this young man’s life. Then, after the laughter, there are the quiet moments, where James challenges his friends to do something more with their lives, driven by the fact that he will never have the opportunity to do something more with himself.
Rather than let him bash their choices, one friend, Miles, calls him out on it, saying, “This trip is like going for a walk with a sick, white Oprah, you would HATE you right now!” This little moment brings the movie back from straying into preachy, do-something-better-with-yourself territory. It’s honest and brutal, and is a forthright reminder that illness does not give you a free pass to be rude and abrasive.
The last fifteen minutes are the hardest to watch. I’ll be really honest with you: it’s heartbreaking, painful, thought-provoking, and you’re going to need some tissues. It’s a blatant, unveiled look at the question of terminal illness, and whether a person should be allowed to end their life in the face of unbearable pain and a haze of drugs to fight it off. Should you help your friend end their life, despite your moral convictions, and give them a dignified death that is of their own choice rather than being reduced to a withered shell? It really gave me something to think about.
This movie wasn’t about the destination: it was about the journey. It was about friendship, brotherly love, and facing extraordinarily difficult choices. It was one of those movies that won’t leave you with a “Wow” factor; it’s quiet, but one of the most powerful, moving films I’ve seen in a long time. I give it a 10/10, and truly recommend it.