Dubbed as the first time-loop blockbuster in Indonesia, Sabar Ini Ujian arrives as the first original Indonesian feature in Disney+ Hotstar. Helmed by Anggy Umbara (Warkop DKI Reborn, Suzzana: Bernapas dalam Kubur) based on a screenplay co-written by Erwin Arnada, Gianluigi Ch, and himself, the movie marries off the playful time-loop trope with a sweet rom-com. The protagonist—ironically named—Sabar (Vino G. Bastian, Wiro Sableng: Pendekar Kapak Maut Naga Geni 212 ) wakes up on the wedding day of her former fiance he barely moves on from, only to find himself reliving the same day over and over again. As the premise and the title suggest (‘Sabar Ini Ujian’ in Indonesian means more or less like ‘please be patient, this is only a test’), the temporal plot device works like a self-test and serves as an allegory of moving on—making peace with the past.
The date is April 11. Sabar wakes up to his mother’s (Widyawati) call reminding him about today’s agenda. A moment later, it’s his best friend, Billy (Ananda Omesh), who calls with the same reminder. We have learned, at this point, that Sabar called off his relationship with Astrid (Estelle Linden) right on their wedding day a few years back. He keeps blaming his childhood trauma as the culprit for fear of his inability to make Astrid happy in marriage. Reluctantly, he goes through the day swallowing the sour pill of his love-life. As in other time-loop movies (like Groundhog Day or Happy Death Day), he starts to realize that he’s living the same day over and over again in an endless cycle that slowly breaks him apart. Only then he learns that maybe it’s the second chance for him to win Astrid back on the most crucial moment in her life. Or maybe it isn’t?
Umbara and the co-writers deal with the time-loop adeptly—making it a working plot device rather than a mere gimmick. The story is built entirely with the time-loop model serving as a tongue-to-cheek allegory of not letting go. The plot does not take long to kick into the action after a few introduction and exposition providing audiences with the necessary information to delve deep into the loop. In a time-loop story, it’s important that audiences feel sympathized and connected to the main character to be able to endure the loop that might get repetitive at a time. In that sense, Sabar Ini Ujian excels in staying connected to the audiences partly due to Vino G. Bastian’s assuring performance that brings us right into his character’s shoes. Sabar’s reluctance reflects his deepest regret and, at the same time, his unending care to Astrid. In G. Bastian’s eyes, even when he’s at his trippiest scene, we can really see it all.
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Sabar Ini Ujian enters the time-loop smoothly but, as the story progresses, the plot begins to bite more than it can chew. The time-loop device slacks out—focusing on one less important loop that consumes the duration and, after that, completely strays from the loop with irrelevant possibilities, including the whole traveling Indonesia and occupational gimmick (the one that has a cameo of G. Bastian’s iconic character). By the time the loop reaches the climax, the duration has hit the 90-minute hallmark. When the story wraps, it clocks in at 126 minutes—giving away the conciseness that might be the key for a movie with a similar concept.
The prolonged duration apparently misses a few important steps in the process. Seemingly, the departure from the main loop is a measure to compensate for the movie’s lackluster comedy moments filled in with irritating gags and surreal buffoons. There are some missing links to connect the whole exposition with the third act that feels so close yet so far. The moment is powerful and borderline sentimental with G. Bastian’s acting hits a new height as he acts alongside Adi Kurdi (in one of his final performances before his passing in May 2020). The movie arrives a little too late for this unwavering moment and departs way too soon only to present a completely absurd resolution to the time-loop.
Solid performances from Widyawati and Adi Kurdi are criminally underused; meanwhile, Anya Geraldine’s and Luna Maya’s characters get a tad too much screentime (and additional arc) than what is intended to be. G. Bastian’s presence, at the same time, dominates the whole picture in all the good ways with the range and the deliverance In the end, Sabar Ini Ujian is a well-intended time-loop rom-com that could have been more exhilarating. Has it not weighed down by irritating jokes, prolonged duration, and imprecise built-up for its third act, it’s actually a light, heartwarming story that, for some, may hit close at home.