Writers in movies: Third Star

Haven’t done one of these in a while.

Third Star is an indie movie from 2010 starring Benedict Cumberbatch and three other young British actors.  The main character is a 29-year-old aspiring writer who is dying of cancer.  His friends take him on one last journey to a remote bay in Wales.  Along the way they laugh, they cry, and they learn something about life, about friendship, and about loss.

I know what you’re thinking: This is just the kind of movie I want to avoid at all costs.  And you would be right.  The movie is nicely photographed, nicely acted, it contains no superheroes, no one meets cute . . . but it still feels very trite, very paint-by-numbers.  Everyone has his own flaw, his own secret . . . and yet, at the end, we don’t really feel that we know them; instead, we feel manipulated by a screenwriter without anything deep to say.

There are actually two writers in the movie: the dying-of-cancer-so-he-will-never-achieve-his-life’s-ambition writer and the talented-writer-who-could-never-be-as-good-as-his-famous-father-so-he-gave-it-up writer. But there’s never a moment when we really see them as writers.  Cumberbatch’s character feels a generalized sense of loss, of leaving this world too soon, but he never feels this loss as a writer, with stories left untold, with characters left undescribed.

Which is not to say that I can’t empathize with that loss.  I sold my first novel when I was about 30; by that time Cumberbatch’s character would have been dead.  And I recall that one of my strongest reactions was one of relief.  I would never have to think of myself again as an aspiring writer.  Instead, I could now think of myself as a published author.  However unsuccessful my writing career might be, no one would be able to take that away from me.  It surely would have been a cruel fate to be denied that satisfaction. I was hoping I’d get some sense of this from Third Star, but alas, I enjoyed The Two Mrs. Carrolls more.

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