The Third Day Review TIFF 2020

The Plot

Sam a man already dealing with complicated personal problems and a traumatic past ends up unintentionally trapped on a mysterious island off the British coast. Unable to return to the mainland or easily contact the outside world, he grapples to understand the inhabitants and their strange customs. Faced by turns with an idyllic lurid paradise and the constant threat of something more ominous and fiercely dangerous lurking beneath the surface of the clearly complicated townsfolk. Helen another outsider also finds herself drawn in by the pull of the island, on her own quest for answers…

The Good

Co-creator Dennis Kelly bring much of the same unique visual style and warped intensity of his previous series Utopia to screen in this new deeply ambitious project. The screen is drenched in saturated colours, surreal visual cues and purposefully intimate an at times deeply claustrophobic cinematographer. The camera sits uncomfortably close to lead Jude Law during the opening portion of what swiftly becomes a wildly strange journey into the unknown.

The production has a unique format with two episodic portions split by plans for a unique 12 hours live TV event. The initial instalments titled as Summer follow Sam’s journey. The Final chapters as Winter are set to follow Naomi Harris as Helen, another headstrong outsider searching for answers. Inbetween those is the insanely ambitious planned Autumn portion, a half day long single camera continuous broadcast performance. It’s the result of a decade of planning for creators Dennis Kelly and Felix Barrett.

The production boasts as truly sensational cast. Beyond the appealing co-leads of Jude Law and Naomi Harris he supporting cast is casually packed with familiar and very talented faces. Katherine Waterstone, Paddy Considine and Emily Watson are the kind of special acting talents that can ignite even the most simple of scenes into fascinating drama. Collectively they help craft the deeply mysterious and visceral world. The other less recognisable townsfolk are well cast and each inject a brooding sense of mystery and barely concealed sinister peril.

The combination of strange and unsettling imagery, a ruthlessly claustrophobic setting and this all-star cast make The Third Day utterly compelling viewing and a truly unique experience. It remains to be seen just what the planned 12 hour instalment will add to the intense journey already offered by the episodic portions.

The Bad

The hyper-stylised look and feel of the woozy production will be a little too unsettling for some audiences. The effect of overly saturated colours, incessantly point blank camera work and frequently bizarre and ugly imagery will be simply too jarring and strange for more squeamish audiences. The punch-drunk and perverse aura of the production will not be to everyone’s tastes, even if admittedly well crafted.

It’s also a little unclear just how the 12 hours largely improvised live broadcast actually functions. How can the cast and production possibly deliver such a vast and untested form of drama. The obvious potential for disaster is undeniable even if the impressive scope of the ambition is equally certain.

The Ugly Truth

The Third Day is an ambitious and clearly unique piece of event television that is propelled by a fiercely original creative team and one of the most stellar casts assembled for the small screen. Whatever the rest of the production holds in store it will clearly be much discussed event television packed with memorable mysteries.

Review by Russell Nelson

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