Summer Coda is the sweet, if somewhat sluggish, feature film debut for Melbourne director Richard Gray. The script was runner-up in the Movie Network’s 2007 Project Greenlight competition, and this month sees the culmination of his efforts with its Australian general release.

A romantic drama set against the sunburnt backdrop of Victoria’s northwest, Summer Coda is the story of Heidi (Rachael Taylor), a young woman returning home in search of closure who instead finds escape when she encounters the low-key charm of orange grove owner, Mikey (Alex Demetriades). Very loosely inspired by the story of Gray’s parents coming together, Summer Coda is beautifully shot and tenderly portrayed. The film provides Taylor with a chance to show off much greater dramatic range than her high profile outing in Transformers, and she generally makes the most of it. Dimitriades, for his part, is spot-on as the wounded Mikey, putting in a subdued but pitch-perfect performance that makes you wonder when he’ll get a chance to take on an international-profile role of his own. Gray’s direction makes wonderful use of the Murray River scenery, gently handling it’s rough beauty and allowing it to speak softly for itself. He successfully infuses the film with the scent of summer that many will find so inviting after a cold and wet Melbourne winter.

While overly long and occasionally feeling a tad forced (especially in the first third), Summer Coda eventually grows into itself. The plot may be fairly predictable and suffers from some lazy genre clichés, but this isn’t a film setting out to reinvent the wheel. Summer Coda is a nice film. While that might seem like damning with faint praise, as winter fades and spring seductively hints at summer, there will be many who enjoy Summer Coda for what it is, a feel-good, sundrenched summer romance.

We have two-for-one passes to giveaway to see Summer Coda this weekend for any sessions October 15-17. To win, email win@broadsheet.com.au with the subject 'Summer Coda' and your name and address in the email.