‘6 Festivals’ review: coming-of-age drama centres Aussie music but loses its own rhythm

Filmed at local music festivals and featuring G Flip, Dune Rats, Lime Cordiale and more, this teen drama works best when it leans into director Macario De Souza’s documentary roots

A drama set across Australia’s music festival circuit is a no-brainer. Beyond an instant killer soundtrack, there are literally thousands of stories to follow, all filled with adrenaline, chaos and life-changing highs (natural and unnatural). For his first fictional film, Bra Boys director Macario De Souza leans on his background in documentaries to great effect, transporting us to mosh pits across the country’s east coast and distilling that frenzy for the big screen – unfortunately, to the detriment of its plot.

Set and filmed at real music festivals like Yours & Owls and Big Pineapple, and featuring performances and cameos from the likes of G Flip, Dune Rats, Lime Cordiale, Ruby Fields and plenty more triple j favourites du jour, 6 Festivals follows three teenage friends on a punter pilgrimage. James (Rory Green) has recently been diagnosed with brain cancer; when his best friends Maxie (Rasmus King) and Summer (Yasmin Honeychurch) find out, they make a pact to catch as many of their fave acts live, taking advantage of backstage passes thanks to Marley (Guyala Bayles), Summer’s childhood friend who is beginning to crack the music industry.

While childhood cancer is plenty to work with, 6 Festivals stuffs too many storylines into its 100 minutes. De Souza has made a career out of a knack for exploring Australian masculinity and sub-cultures with great empathy – in addition to Bra Boys, he’s worked on a series about the South Sydney Rabidoes, as well as Fighting Fear, about the big wave surfing industry. 6 Festivals is best when it follows suit. Raised in Maroubra (the same wealthy beachy Sydney suburb featured in Bra Boys), James and Maxie are larrikins on the cusp of becoming men, working out how to wear their masculinity.

Small moments, like one where Maxie asks Dune Rats backstage if they “pump heaps of chicks”, show the boys trying on lines and postures they’ve seen around them: it’s cringe (the Dunies laugh it off), but only because it’s accurate. Maxie, in particular, is given the weightiest scenes. He’s an orphan living with his older brother Kane (played by Rasmus’s real life brother, Kyuss King), a violent surfer-drug dealer and a Tim Winton-meets-David Williamson character who embodies toxic Australian masculinity. Their relationship, sitting comfortably within De Souza’s wheelhouse, is the most fully fleshed out of the plots.

Meanwhile, Summer’s reconnection to Marley as two women of colour in music who supported each other through traumatic childhoods is given the B-plot position when it could easily be its own film. And oddly, protagonist James’ cancer storyline feels hollow, even if Green tries his best to add depth. It drives the film, but is too cliché to resonate much with an audience, especially following Shannon Murphy’s brilliant treatment of the same subject in the 2020 movie Babyteeth.

At the same time, the story is simply not the main drawcard of 6 Festivals: as it is for the characters, it’s all about the music. Its countless live performances are filmed beautifully, perfectly capturing the delirious excitement of being a teenager seeing your favourite band. It’s a treat to see Aussie artists be given a first-class film treatment, but it’s a shame the rest of the movie can’t match that electricity.

Details

  • Director: Macario De Souza
  • Starring: Rory Green, Rasmus King, Yasmin Honeychurch
  • Release date: August 11 (in Australian cinemas), August 25 (Paramount+)
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