Three SummersThis Aussie film is a must-see!

One of the most appealing local films for 2017 has had to wait until almost the end of the year for its general release. Director and Writer, Ben Elton, is well known for his many endeavours in the arts, including his work as a novelist, playwright, stand-up comedian, theatre and TV director and more, but this is his first Australian feature film.

It is set over three consecutive summers and follows the lives of a group of people attending a music festival near a small country town in Western Australia. Elton was inspired by the Fairbridge Music Festival near Pinjarra in WA, an event he has attended with his family over many years.

Footage of this festival, shot in 2016, is incorporated into the film, and it helps give the film a very authentic feel. The budget for Three Summers was relatively small, but this certainly isn’t evident in the finished product, which looks impressive and polished.

Every summer, musicians, artists, dancers, their fans and all the necessary support people assemble in a rural location in Western Australia for a folk music festival called “Westival”. Some of the regulars include father and daughter musicians, Keevey (Rebecca Breeds) and Eamon (John Waters), who are members of an Irish folk band, The WArrikins. The first year depicted sees the arrival of new talent, a Theremin (an electronic musical instrument) player called Roland (Robert Sheehan).

Brash and superior, he dislikes folk music, and its predictability, especially when compared to his free-form compositions. Despite their incompatible musical backgrounds, Keevey and Roland are drawn to each other, and the seeds of attraction are soon sown.

But the path of love is rarely smooth, and several summers must pass before the lovers resolve their differences.  Surrounding this central couple is a diverse range of characters who attend the festival every year, including a bigoted grandfather/ Morris Dancer (Michael Caton), a group of Indigenous dancers, led by elder Jack (Kelton Pell), the community radio MC, Queenie (Magda Szubanski) and AA counsellor, Pam (Deborah Mailman). Kate Box also features in the film, playing a lesbian security guard and she nails the role, providing many laughs!

I so enjoyed this film! It is original, refreshing, very funny at times and it features skilled writing and a wonderful sense of goodwill. There are strong performances from its well-known cast, with Magda Szubanski and John Waters especially worthy of a mention. While there may be a couple of holes in the predictable plot, it would be churlish to point them out when the film exudes such warmth and positivism.

It also looks and sounds great. While Elton has tackled some serious issues, he has done so in a way that makes them accessible, and he is not trying to hit his audience over the head with his take on contemporary Australia. Although at times it is slightly clunky, Three Summers is entertaining and engaging. While it may not change the world, it certainly won’t scare an audience off with a high-handed approach either.

Highly recommended summer viewing!