Old men need to take on the new world, let go of their prejudices, and live in the energies of the present. So there. Now, who fancies a light comedy that skips through romcom territory and still lands a ton of character points and a dash of the above? Three Summers is for you. It popped by on the BBC iPlayer and the TV room watched it by accident. Old Jack here thoroughly enjoyed it, tolerating the young love interest, laughing in all the right places, and then, cos I didn’t read the credits at the start, being properly surprised to discover this Aussie tale came from the pen of Ben Elton. I know!
In retrospect, the expert writer’s presence is felt throughout. This story of three summers at an Australian folk festival, filled with characters in all stages of life and angst and joy, is efficiently told, balanced to pleasing, and still wholly accessible. The cleverness with the language is there: we have colonials and originals demanding predominance in histories, ragingly shallow Feminasties and subversion of Australian classics. Matilda has a bad time. So, all in all, lovely, even if its methodical shape limits its comic surprisiness.
The young are everywhere. The central couple meet and fight for three years, glowering through romcom norms. Rebecca Breeds is the sexy-girl-violinist of my dreams, a thought I probably shouldn’t be sharing here. She is hugely alive as Keevey, supporting her widowed Dad years beyond the call of duty, submerging her musical brilliance in pub-band fun. Robert Sheehan is Irish theremin snob, working through his pretensions whilst inadvertently belittling all around him. His Roland heartily deserves the verbal blasts he gets from Keevey. Together, they are fun, fun along the way, and their end-game…sweetly inevitable.
What of the old? Well, herein lies lots of telling points from Elton. Keevey’s Dad has a subtext to weep for. In droller territory, I love the two middle-aged couples, fond of their ‘botskies’ of wine, who take their camper vans to the exact same spot every year, have the same meals, made by the same wives (hmmm), and commend themselves on their same sameness. Until, one year, something happens and the curtains part on the staidness…with heartily implied sexy love times. Nothing weird, but I loved the wink at middle-age and the shy turning of a new page.
The best stuff comes from an unexpected, perhaps dangerous, direction. The clash of those histories, indigenous and colonial, is a tension treated with deftness until it isn’t. Kelton Pell and Michael Caton own the screen as old men on either side of that divide, one seeing in-situ invaders, the other living a torn tradition of Morris Dancing and his own arrival as a child. You don’t quite believe that the stories will mesh, but Elton makes his point with warmth and the actors deliver with comedy and grace. You’ll see Caton bend from his prejudice and rage into what people should be and, okay, clunky, but old Jack here loved the sight of an oldster changing through recognition of common stories and humanity to nicely judged collaboration.
Mostly, this is a properly funny, slightly busy, but rich film. It is smooth and light, but that’s the sign of a writer at his professional best. The sea of characters, bound together by Magda Szubanski‘s glorious mother-hen Queenie, speak well of us all, not least our ability to shift from pettiness to cooperation and change, with many a laugh.
And there’s a lady violinist, so…that may be a thing for you as well.