Ben Elton made a name for himself constructing some of the most quintessentially British comedies. Shows like Blackadder, Mr Bean, and Alfresco (which notably featured early appearances from Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry). We’re talking friends with Rowan Atkinson and Jennifer Saunders. Proper British – like wearing a top hat, or glassing someone at a football match.
Knowing this makes Three Summers pleasantly surprising for Elton’s ability to capture a humorously accurate snapshot of life in contemporary Australia. We know, of course, this shouldn’t be too shocking. He is married to an Aussie, after all and has resided in Fremantle (of all places) for the last two decades. Nonetheless, the film manages to portray a lighthearted view of Australian culture without relying on tired tropes and old stereotypes we’ve seen rehashed countless cringe-worthy times on the big screen (cough, Australia, cough). Not bad for a boy from London.
The story centres around the fictitious Westifal country folk festival in W.A. (slogan: “let’s get folked up”), and the groups of attendees who visit each year. As the title suggests, we get to see three summers worth of festivals, with the same characters returning to continue where they left off. In the middle of the mishmash of wine-quaffing 50-somethings and pedantically petty bouncers, is an on-again, mostly-off-again romance between a fiddle playing folk-musician (Rebecca Breeds) and a frustratingly pretentious Theremen player (Robert Sheehan). Will this unlikely couple ever get together? Well, it’s a romantic comedy, so we’ll leave that one with you. While the script can border on the mawkishly sentimental at times, the incredible cast of familiar Aussie actors and relative newcomers ensures that the characters don’t dissolve in the sugar syrup.
Beyond the steady backdrop of characters at Westifal, there’s the odd swipe at the Australian government’s offshore detention policy, as well as treatment of indigenous people. Without giving anything away, the political messages are carefully placed so it doesn’t feel like Elton, who is well-known for his political views, is preaching or shoehorning his own agenda at the cost of an enjoyable film. Not ground-breaking stuff, but still a fairly decent effort to convey a political message.
If you’re looking for something funny that also feels good, then this should be perfect. In short, it’s not exactly Predator – so probably not good for a boys night, but absolutely perfect if you’re looking to take a date.