Film, Three Long Years, which runs a little over an hour, is a slippery little beast. As far as length goes, it is definitely not a short film, but it is almost shockingly brief in a movie climate where most mainstream movies tend to be at least two hours long. That’s regardless of whether or not they actually have sufficient depth and content to justify that amount of time spent watching them. Also, the movie is in both color and crisp black and white—with a twist. Here, the colored footage refers to flashbacks and dream sequences, while virtually all the present-day sense is in monochrome.
So, what exactly is Three Long Years about? It is about a struggling photographer named Jude Donnelly (played by Peter Welch, who also wrote and directed the movie). Jude gets into a car accident, has a concussion and broken arms, and is admitted to a nearby hospital. He is assigned a nurse called Stephen (Randy Jones), whose main duty is to make sure that he does not lose consciousness and worsen his condition. The bulk of the film is taken up by Jude telling Stephen the story of the past three years of his life, which have been aimless and miserable since his breakup with his girlfriend.
In some ways, Three Long Years is a very small and conventional film. It is largely a two-man show wherein the nurse helps the patient get his life figured out. However, the film’s content and structure slyly subvert these conventions.
The most obvious source of subversion is Stephen himself. He is not the wise and selfless cardboard character that people are used to seeing in films about emotional recovery. He is not the sort whose only purpose is to get the protagonist to turn his/her life around. Stephen is a quirky, well-rounded character in his own right—a bubbly gay man with a tendency to try to seduce his patients. In fact, his attempts to make advances towards Jude are a major source of the movie’s humor. Of course, it is also possible that the conception of Stephen is a bit of a letdown—yet another humorous gay character fueling a comedy. However, given that Stephen’s ridiculousness is actually intrinsically linked with his wisdom, we can still find a lot to praise in both the character and the actor who plays him. The script gives him even more layers to play with by having Donnelly request that Stephen pretend to be his ex-girlfriend. Donnelly, therefore, gets to play both a character (Stephen) and a character within a character (Stephen-as-the-girlfriend).
Speaking of performances, how does Peter Welch himself fare? Welch gives a comfortable and self-deprecating performance that isn’t as flashy as Jones’. But Welch does a great job of holding the play together. Peter Welch remains likeable for the duration of the movie, despite his character doing some crazy and pathetic things. The performances by the other characters that walk in and out of Jude’s life are also adequate, though some might find the depictions of “hicks” somewhat shallow and offensive. Of course, as we hinted when discussing the character of Stephen, comedy does run on stereotypes.
All in all, this is a gently funny and subtly intelligent movie. If you like, you can watch it just for fun or you can choose to look deeper and find something to really think about. Like both its main characters, this film can easily make you laugh but gives even more when you look past the surface.
Year : 2003
Director : Peter Welch
Writer : Peter Welch
Starring: Peter Donnelly, Randy Jones
Country: United States
Running time: 76 mins.