Herwin Novianto presents a slice-of-life family drama revolving around the life of a dysfunctional family and their struggle in Yang Tak Tergantikan (trans. the irreplaceable one). Occupying the center stage of the narrative is Lulu Tobing in another subtle performance portraying a divorcee living independently with her three young-adult children. She’s the beating heart of the story, co-written Gunawan Raharja (Aisyah: Biarkan Kami Bersaudara), that feels grounded and intimate without having to dip into sheer complications.
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Tobing is Ariyati, a single mother who works as an online taxi driver to support her family after the marriage broke down a few moments back. Her husband—whose presence is like a looming shadow for the rest of the duration—moved out from the house and he’s basically non-existent to her. It’s been a rough year for her. With the house rent is almost due, she has to collect enough money to extend for another year. Her children, mostly unknowing of the divorce complication, is surprisingly supportive to her even when they bear their own burden. Bayu (Dewa Dayana), the oldest son, works tirelessly to help the family making ends meet. Tika (Yasamin Jasem) is the extension of the mother’s care in home while working her blossoming youth out. The youngest child, Kinanti (Maisha Kanna), is a chess prodigy craving for lost attention but never losing her control. It’s an optimistic story about family that sticks together to confront whatever perils coming in their way. It’s as simple as that but it’s surprisingly moving.
There’s barely plot development in Yang Tak Tergantikan hinting any complications in the process. The linear narrative flows spontaneously and almost feels episodically. Believable conflicts make way into the story smoothly and take turn to unravel almost too smoothly. It feels like Novianto and Raharja‘s script plays a little too safely in developing the conflicts, making sure that no loose thread left hanging. In consequence, the story feels a little plain in terms of tension. Each character grapples with their own inner conflicts at the same time; but, the plot tends to resolve them one by one before any of those discords collides into each other. This would eventually feel a little discounted given some resolution comes with simplification; but, that gives the leading characters moment to find solace in each other—the story’s most profound message.
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The narrative isn’t always the most compelling in developing the tension and arranging the rhythm; but, emotionally excellent performances by the ensemble of casts make it excusable. Tobing, who has recently rekindled her acting career in matriarch roles, makes a back-to-back tour de force. Her performance as the mother of a pregnant teen in Dua Garis Biru is irresistibly brilliant; but, here she doubles down her outstanding performance with an even better showcase of subtleties and emotion-driven panache. Dayana, Jasem, and Kanna‘s refined performances as Tobing‘s young adult children helps achieving the new height she performs. The literal absence of a patriarch figure in the story makes her character more compelling in presence.
For the whole duration, Yang Tak Tergantikan posts an unspoken question: who is the irreplaceable one? While the premise suggests that the patriarch is the one, the entire story tells otherwise. The non-existent father is completely replaceable; but, it’s the matriarch figure that proves her irreplaceability. It might deliver a tad too optimistic story of a dysfunctional family struggling with the absence of a father figure; but, it’s done correctly thanks to the uniformly brilliant casts.