Brazilian film Three Summers explores the earth-shattering consequences of Operation Car Wash, through the lens of a frantic house-keeper keeping her livelihood and family together.
Although the clouds of corruption loom over its characters, lively and energetic humour occupy the film to illustrate the optimism and rigorous hard-work Brazil’s lower class maintain despite being victims to rapacious greed.
For context, Operation Car Crash involved nationwide money-laundering and embezzling schemes in Brazil. The investigations took place over several years, with over a thousand people implicated and arrested, from politicians and business leaders alike.
This dramatic backdrop only rears itself as subtext; the film follows Mada (Regina Case) as she manages condominiums over the holiday period for her affluent employers Marta and Edgar. She dreams of owning a roadside kiosk where she can sell her favourite recipes like “sausage sushi”. However, her plans are abruptly derailed when the owners of the condominiums are embroiled in corruption, and Mada suddenly loses everything she has without any prior knowledge of what was happening.
Initially, Mada is a consummate worrier; obsessive that everything is in order. As she agonises over snacks for partygoers, to bugging family members about mystery phone calls. This constant fretting is cumbersome for both those around her, and the viewer. However, as her job and aspirations collapse around her, Mada is forced to adapt and evolve to changing circumstances, using her willpower and resourcefulness to an endearing and heart-warming effect.
The film is split into three parts that take place over three summers. In this way, the summer ambience of searing heat provides a metaphor for the heightened tension from the police investigation, as well as Mada and her family losing control of their lives. Nevertheless, this elliptical structure drags out scenes without purpose, as well as the drab appearance of sterile white and opulent mansions that lacks any penetrative insight into class struggles.
Three Summers offers a pertinent perspective on the corruption scandals that plagued Brazil, and the stultifying class struggles with hope and levity. However, its message is hampered with an unfocused story arc that limits its characters from shining through.