James (Cumberbatch) has just turned 29 and he's dying of cancer. As a birthday wish, he gets his best mates Miles, Davy and Bill (Feild, Burke and Robertson) to take him on a hike across Pembrokeshire to his favourite beach. Along the way, good-natured banter gives way to sometimes too-honest conversations as they have a series of small adventures on the vertiginous cliffs. The question is whether their friendship can survive all of the things that are finally about to be said.
Director Dalton has a wonderful eye for both telling detail and natural beauty, and the combination here is extremely striking. Sometimes there's a little too much information on screen (and in the dialog), as if we might not get it otherwise, and perhaps a few too many things go accidentally wrong during the expedition. But the characters are so vividly drawn that we don't mind, as all four central actors deliver raw, likeable performances. Their dialog snaps with tough, funny honesty.
It's especially great to see Cumberbatch and Feild in contemporary roles that feel much more natural than the period figures they usually play. With Burke and Robertson, they create a terrific sense of camaraderie, with each interrelationship having its own strengths and weaknesses along the way. And we can see how their group dynamic makes them such a formidable team, especially when they confront each other cruelly yet never lose their sense of loyalty.
This is also a remarkably bold film in its subject matter, as it could have left out the cancer subplot and just made it a more riotous, crowd-pleasing romp along the dramatic Welsh coastline. Instead, things get very dark indeed from time to time, and especially in the wrenching finale. The overriding theme is of four young men at that point in life when they realise that their dreams have become fantasies rather than possibilities, and that life from here on might be a matter of settling for the best that comes along rather than clinging to a dream. Yes, it's bleak, but also movingly resonant.
Run time: 92 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 25th June 2011
Distributed by: Western Edge Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%
Fresh: 7 Rotten: 9
IMDB: 7.7 / 10
Director: Hattie Dalton
Producer: Kelly Broad, Vaughan Sivell
Screenwriter: Vaughan Sivell