The first ten minutes of Three Wise Cousins is enough to convince you that you are in for a great time. The title card simply reads, “Somewhere in Samoa”, as a young nerdy man named Adam is intimidated by two larger men, who are ostensibly his cousins Tavita and Mose. Faux drama and tension is generated by a high-energy score and multiple quick cuts, lending this decidedly mundane opening the air of an action flick. It feels odd, until you realize it is all tongue-in-cheek, and you’re watching a comedy.

Three Wise Cousins is an impressive debut from director Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa (credited as S.O.S.) and lead actor Neil Amituanai, who plays Adam. Adam is a loafer who doesn’t do much. He plays his Playstation, doesn’t help around the house, and is just generally useless. One day, he sees a beautiful girl named Mary (Gloria Ofa Blake), and he falls for her. He lacks any kind of social tact or confidence, so he eavesdrops on Mary and learns that she prefers, “a real island man” for a boyfriend. Thus, Adam sets to go live with his two cousins on Samoa.

The majority of this opening scene is Adam shakily explaining his situation and he desire to learn “island things” from his cousins in order to impress this girl. The cousins agree, because they have to put family first. What follows is a minor training montage of Adam basically failing at even the most basic tasks. He struggles to climb a tree to get a coconut, can’t husk them properly, and isn’t even particularly capable of cutting the grass with a machete.

Tavita (Fesuiai Viliamu) and Mose (Vito Vito) do their best, but Adam is a selfish and short-sighted individual. Eventually, this basic conflict erupts, and Adam has to decide if he is going to change his life in any meaningful way. Three Wise Cousins is quirky and humorous throughout, and remarkably genuine in its pathos. It is a strong debut, and definitely worth the watch.

Friday, October 21, 7:00 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

Tickets can be purchased at the ImagineNATIVE website.

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