TL;DR – It is a film that treads over very familiar ground, the ‘fish out of water’ scenario, however, it has a sense of humour and identity that elevates it above many of its contemporaries.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
This is an interesting little film, I didn’t really know anything about it going in and had not seen a single trailer, so I was intrigued to see how it would end up. Three Wise Cousins tells the story of Adam (Neil Amituanai) who lives in suburban Auckland with his parents and is doing pretty much nothing other than playing his PlayStation and sleep. One day he stumbles across the woman of his dreams Mary (Gloria Ofa Blake) and overhears that she is only interested in island boys. So Adam decides to drop everything and visit his cousins Tavita (Fesuiai Viliamu) and Mose (Vito Vito) in Samoa to learn how to be an island boy so he can impress Mary. Of course, once Adam gets there he finds out it is more than he bargained on as Mose and Tavita play a kind of good cop, bad cop, to get Adam to … well then that is the crux of the film so I won’t spoil it here.
As a plot device this is nothing new, someone has to move to somewhere new and shenanigans occur, the classic ‘fish out of water’ device. However, there are a couple of things that elevate Three Wise Cousins above the usual shlock. It has a unique setting, exploring what it means to be Samoan when you don’t live in Samoa, the cast is really engaging and employ an almost absurdist style of humour that is really enjoyable. As well as this, the film makes the most of their setting, juxtaposing the comfortable life in New Zealand with the rough beauty of Samoa. The humour is the real driving force of the film, and even though these are clearly new actors they have a great sense of comedic timing that really helps the film.
However, it is not a perfect film, it is clear that the film had a very small budget and that really does show at times, the music not quite working in places, the actors showing a bit of inexperience at times and some slight continuity errors. Also, the film reveals its hand a bit too early, about halfway through the second act something happens are you realise, ‘ah this is the point of the film’ but then you have to sit through a lot of the film before the character themselves work it out. What this means is that the film really starts to drag before it changes it up in the third act, and that is a problem because the film is not that long, to begin with.
While these problems exist, you can’t help but like the actors and cast, and the setting really lends itself to the narrative. On an aside, while you don’t have to understand Samoan to enjoy the movie, if the audience I saw the film with is any indication, there are some jokes you won’t get if you don’t. Three Wise Cousins is a really good little film that explores this notion of identity, how to engage with your ancestry and life in a changed world. I can really recommend you check it out
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by –Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa
Written by – Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa
Starring – Neil Amituanai, Fesuiai Viliamu, Vito Vito & Gloria Ofa Blake
Rating – Australia: PG; NZ: PG