Three Summers is writer-director Ben Elton’s second feature length film and it poses some important political questions amidst the backdrop of a whimsical love story.
Elton’s latest film takes place over three consecutive years at a fictional folk festival called ‘Westival’, taking inspiration from WA’s much-loved Fairbridge Festival that’s held near Pinjarra every year.
We’re all familiar with the romantic comedy formula by now: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy tries to win the affection of girl and eventually succeeds in doing so after great effort. Three Summers uses this classic plotline for the film’s story which spans over three consecutive years at ‘Westival’.
Roland (Robert Sheehan) is a quirky young Irishman who has come to the festival to play the theremin. Keevey (Rebecca Breeds) is an exceptional fiddle player who is also performing at the festival with her band. The crowd is jam-packed for her lively gig, but Roland struggles to bring in an audience. Keevey thinks she can teach Roland a thing or two about good music, but he is adamant that folk music is old-fashioned. Let the ongoing debate begin.
Meanwhile, we are exposed to plenty of interesting characters at the festival. There’s a morris dancing grumpy grandfather (Michael Caton) with very conservative beliefs; an Aboriginal dance group led by a strongminded elder (Kelton Pell) and a local radio host known as DJ Queenie (Magda Szubanski), to name but a few.
The film jumps between shots of live music and dancing to behind-the-scenes camping life, where we really get to know the festival-goers and some of the routines they adopt year in, year out. Two middle-aged couples meet up at the festival every year to drink red wine, without physically leaving the campsite to see any live music. Elton plays around with these repetitive routines in the festival’s third and final year, which makes for some comical viewing.
The festival setting clearly acts as a microcosm of WA and enables Elton to bring together a multitude of voices, stories and histories of the state.
At times, Elton’s political agenda is glaringly obvious and it hinders the flow of the film. But the writer-director is clearly passionate about promoting the value of Western Australian culture in all of its many forms, which he achieves through his diverse cast and light-hearted Aussie script. Three Summers promotes the diversity of Australian values while providing a few laughs, and there’s plenty of WA talent on show with both the cast and musicians, which makes it well worth watching and supporting.
Three Summers is on general release now.
Image credit: Melbourne International Film Festival