In Ben Elton’s second film as director, the writer and comedian uses the microcosm of a WA folk festival to pick at the scabs of Australia’s political climate both past and present. Elton has always been known for his politics, so his desire to sink his teeth into something like this is not surprising. What is surprising is how he wraps up the political back and forth in the form of a romantic comedy which sees overly serious theremin player, Roland (Robert Sheehan) and down to earth fiddle player Keevey (Rebecca Breeds) pretend they don’t fancy each other over three years.
Without this ‘will they? won’t they?’ as the main thrust of the film, Three Summers could come across a little overwrought and perhaps even on-the-nose. That said, the film’s backdrop is a smart choice on Elton’s part; allowing characters of differing POVs to rub shoulders, without it feeling like they’ve been crowbarred into the scenario.
There’s Michael Caton as a disgruntled grandfather who grew up as a displaced child immigrant, whilst Carlton Pell plays an aboriginal elder, whose gentle joshing of his white audience hides painful truths. Elsewhere, Three Summers casts its light on immigration and asylum seekers. All of which – including our romantic leads – is brought together by the sublime Magda Szubanski as local radio DJ Queenie, who would rather everyone just saw eye to eye.
There have been other comedies that have tackled Australia’s attitude to race relations and Three Summers certainly isn’t as acerbic as Cronulla Riot based comedy, Down Under. However, whilst it doesn’t go for the jugular, it still makes its observations just as pointedly with its softly softly approach. And when all is said and done, it’s still an extremely enjoyable movie that holds some good old-fashioned belly laughs. It may not change the world overnight, but its determination to raise conversation is to be commended.