Back in 2018, Andibachtiar Yusuf’s Love for Sale offers an enticing lover-for-hire premise and introduces us to the ever-enigmatic yet iconic character, Arini (Della Dartyan). The first movie, written by Yusuf and M. Imran Ramly, lies confidently somewhere between absurdity and melancholy. The combination of a bitter storyline—about the game of love, loneliness, and what follows—and sexy chemistry between the leads resulted in an emotionally invested picture. Love for Sale 2 seeks not the re-emulation of the formula; instead, it seeks to expand the universe, making it whole.
Dartyan returns as Arini, the chameleon lover, in a completely different setting. Love for Sale 2 is not a direct continuation of the first movie even when, chronologically, the event happens after Arini sent Marten’s Richard into an eventual self-discovery journey (we thought it was to find Arini while, in fact, it’s the journey to find his inner self; we only know it later). Instead, the second movie broadens the scope and offers a completely new story interweaved by Arini’s existence. While the subject of the predecessor is a sour, lonely man; the subject in this sequel is a whole family. Surprise, surprise.
Having been relieved from the duty to introduce Arini and Love Inc. concept, Love For Sale 2 has all the time to explore the drama and, occasionally, flaunts the director’s flair for visual treats. The latter comes quite early in the movie as the story introduces us to Ican (Adipati Dolken, Posesif) and his mother (Ratna Riantiarno) in a Minang wedding exquisitely shot in one long take. From the insightful wedding scene, we learn a lot about the family: Ican has two married brothers (Aryo Wahab and Bastian Steel) and he simply cannot settle in one girl much to his mother’s dismay. While complicated, the conflicts that surround the family are basically reflections of the Indonesian family nowadays.
Yusuf and Ramly’s script carefully stages a decoy in the narrative by using Ican as a pseudo-protagonist. While the character is responsible for bringing Arini and his enigmatic Love Inc. service, the story works better when it’s about Arini and Rosmaida. The chemistry—that once bewitched us between Dartyan and Marten—is manufactured into a different ingredient to spice up Arini and Rosmaida’s relationship.
Ratna Riantiarno excels in portraying the insecure maternal persona of Rosmaida. Her characterization borrows elements from her sons’ storyline. Her interaction with Ndoy (Wahab), her first son, gets strained once the son got married and settled down because she thought that Ndoy’s wife (Putri Ayudya) does not tick all the ideal in-law qualifications she made up. To Buncun (Steel), her third son, she’s more understanding although there’s an impending dread she addresses to her son because of Buncun’s irresponsibility to his family. To Ican, she has no more idea to remind her second to get married soon now that he’s thirty-something year old.
Arini came as an instant answer to Ican’s problem, but, ends up being a solace for the whole family. The script takes the time to explore how Arini injects herself to the hopeless-romantic family, proving that she is good-natured (a counter-marketing effort that the filmmakers had resounded long before the release). Each of the threads is unraveled carefully with enough sensitivity—making the story even more sympathetic than the first one—even with a cost of convolution. When the abrupt finale arrives, however, we have learned what has Arini given more than what has she taken; something that the first movie cannot fully emanate.
In the end, Love for Sale 2 is a solid follow-up to the emotionally-invested lovestruck drama that the first movie offers. For future follow-ups, Yusuf and Ramly should be able to expand it further, instead of going back to close the circle. Maybe hiring an additional female writer might get us a completely different, yet interestingly connected Love for Sale. If not for a feature movie, it might make it as an anthology series. We don’t mind.