Three Summers (M)
Rating: 4 / 5
Three Summers is a feel-good film with a veritable parade of fine Australian talent.
When a film can attract names like Magda Szubanski, Michael Caton, John Waters and former Home and Away star Rebecca Breeds, that’s a great start—with that level of talent, all they need is a good script.
Enter comic genius Ben Elton to write and direct and you have lift-off.
Three Summers covers the same weekend three years running, the Westival Folk Festival, which takes over a small Western Australian town with campervans, tents and portaloos for two annual action-packed days.
We follow the lives of our protagonists, led by Queenie (Magda Szubanski), the undisputed monarch of the festival who is the star of the local community radio station that operates from the church hall in a special outside broadcast for each Westival. With Szubanski’s natural wit and charm, this is a glorious characterisation, especially with her trademark phrase “What’s not to like?”
Ben Elton was inspired to write the film after a family trip to Western Australia’s Fairbridge Folk Festival, seeing so many different people congregate in one area for their mutual love of folk music.
Three Summers is the story of young folk chick Keevey (Rebecca Breeds) who plays a mean fiddle, sings well and does a good Irish dance step, while playing in her father Eamon’s (John Waters) folk band The Warrikins. Out of pure curiosity, Keevey attends a workshop on the unusual technology-based instrument, the theremin, performed by snooty young Irishman Roland (Robert Sheehan), theremin player by night and dog washer by day. Like the best romances, this is a case of opposites attracting and clashing over the next three years.
Meanwhile, Henry (Michael Caton) leads his merry band of Morris dancers, in full English regalia, including straw hats with flowers. Henry takes his mission to convert the world to Morris dancing very seriously, and this provides visual hilarity and great lines.
A troupe of Indigenous dancers, led by Jack (Sam Longley) provides another cultural clash, which eventually leads to the two sides understanding a bit more about each other.
While on one level this is a classic light Australian romcom with terrific one-liners, its producers suggest that Three Summers is a story about inclusion and harmony, as these sentiments are gradually played out in the film. It certainly makes the point about how we should celebrate and accept our differences and rub along together.
A serious note is interjected when some Afghan refugee performers must leave the stage after their packed performance to be returned to a detention centre, and there is a very moving speech from their lead musician about where hell can be found in Australia.
If you are looking for layers of meaning and high art, this is not your cup of tea. But if you want to enjoy a great Australian film that will give you plenty of chuckles and charm, Three Summers fits the bill nicely.
Highlight: Classic Aussie feel-good story
Red flags: Coarse language, adult concepts