Review / ‘Three Summers’ (M) *** and a half

FROM writer/director Ben Elton comes this amusing, entertaining and often confronting little film about Australia and its cultural and social foibles.

A folk music festival not far from Perth may not stand in the top rank of its ilk. The acts may be familiar. Who cares? Fans have been coming ever since it began. And enjoying it.

The film’s structure is loosely built around Keevy (Rebecca Breeds) who simultaneously Irish dances, plays fiddle and sings in a pop rock folk group together with her alcoholic dad (John Waters). This year, the festival has a new act trying to introduce a new musical style. Roland (Robert Sheehan) performs on the theremin, an electronic instrument (like Maggie Gyllenhaal plays in 2014’s delightfully whacky “Frank”). Roland thinks Keevy’s music is outdated. She thinks he and his music are pretentious.

From the comfort of our seats, we quickly see that by the time the final credits roll, they will acknowledge that they are in love.

The film observes the festival over three consecutive summers. Michael Caton pulls out all the stops playing a bigoted Pom who yearly brings a troupe of Morris dancers and sees white settlement as the country’s salvation. Young Aboriginal dancers arrive in the care of a didgeridoo player with strong views about white domination. Reconciliation is inevitable after Caton’s character undergoes an epiphany and performs the emu dance.

Magda Szubanski plays the festival compere. Kate Box is great as a security guard controlling access to the toilets. Peter Rowsthorn is one of a two-couple group who arrive in Kombi vans and spend the weekend enjoying wine and each other oblivious to what’s happening in the world beyond their familiar routine.

It’s charming stuff, cleverly written, performed by skilled people prepared to submerge their dignity for the film’s sake. Like reality, it leaves issues unresolved. Which in the wider scheme of things is no great omission.

At Dendy, Palace Electric, Capital 6 and Limelight

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