The term ‘love all’ refers to the zero scores from which all competitors begin a badminton game. In Sim F’s directorial debut, Susi Susanti – Love All, the term is also redefined as a credo in which all badminton players must always love all—the whole game including the crowds and the opponents—to win the game. In Susi Susanti’s case, everything goes back to the beginning—to the love of her country. After all, it’s a complex biopic that transcends the episodic moments in the subject’s triumphant career.
Transcending the usual zero-to-hero narrative, Susi Susanti: Love All tells beyond the struggle of the legendary badminton player to finally become one of the world’s bests. It works as a reflective social commentary about the life of Chinese-descent people in Indonesia—a country with a long history of persecution against people of Chinese descent. Between the harsh life that Chinese people had to endure and the love of the country, Susi Susanti’s epochal story is a tough watch. There, the ‘love all’ credo starts to make sense.
The story begins with an empowering scene showing young Susi (portrayed by Moira Tabina Zayn, Dilan series) winning a trial to practice in Rudy Hartono’s badminton dojo (Rudy is Indonesia’s badminton prodigy, winning All-England for seven consecutive times). Having toughened up with extensive exercises, adult Susi (portrayed excellently by Laura Basuki, Terbang Menembus Langit) got called to the national team’s training camp where she encounters people who will eventually make her the living legend. Trained by Tong Sinfu (Chew Kin Wah, My Stupid Boss, Cek Toko Sebelah) and Liang Chiu Sia (Jenny Zhang)—two Indonesian-born Chinese coaches, Susi begins to form a strong friendship with fellow athletes, including Sarwendah (Kelly Tandiono, The Night Comes for Us), Hermawan Susanto (Rafael Tan, Bridezilla), AB Wiranata (Nathaniel Sulistyo), and Alan Budikusuma (Dion Wiyoko, Cek Toko Sebelah), who will eventually become Susi’s husband.
Sim F flaunts his directorial debut with series of well-crafted and well-acted scenes that play out emotional to drive the story forward. Yunus Pasolang’s warm cinematography help to capture the emotions with either close-up and precise shots. While taking the liberty to add dramatic elements to the story, Sim F works out on the screenplay (written by Syarika Bralini, Raymond Lee, Sinar Ayu Massie, Raditya, and Daud Sumolang) effectively that each emotion-laden scene goes coherently before culminating in several climactic moments (most importantly, the Sudirman Cup final and the 1992 Olympics’ post-match interview scenes). Sim’s direction is promising. The Sudirman Cup final scene is a well-staged badminton highlight that toils with thriller and emotion. The Olympics scene, however, is a mixed bag; it manages to overcome the repetition, but, some inaccuracies wore it down.
Love All, however, could use a better framing device to make the narrative less episodic and to fix the pacing issue that often gets the story off balance. While chronological order might help audiences to reflect on each moment in Susi’s life, it almost feels like a visual summary of the subject’s Wikipedia page. The screenplay starts off strongly, but as the story progresses, it somehow gets tangled in multiple knots at once. For whatever it is, Sim F’s direction can still capture the movie’s most blatant message about the irony beyond Susi Susanti’s success.
Laura Basuki excels in portraying Susi Susanti. She has excellently transformed into the dramatic Susi, who will cutely bond with her parents (Iszur Muchtar and Dayu Wijanto) and romantically woo with Dion Wiyoko’s Alan. At the same time, she works even further to portray the athletic Susi. Her footwork is astonishing and her stance seems natural. Basuki captures the irony perfectly, making us sympathize with the subject and, most importantly, to the people she represents.
In the end, not only has it founded on the subject’s legacy, but Susi Susanti: Love All is also founded upon a timeless social commentary made alive by Laura Basuki’s charming performance.