Review Ave Maryam (2019)

Beyond the beautifully staged and shot pictures, Ave Maryam is a black comedy with Catholic guilt as the punchline.‬ Rich with subtexts; but modest, if not poor, with narrative impact.

Underneath the beautiful cinematography and poetic, rare dialogues, Ertanto Robby Soediskam’s Ave Maryam (a more clinical title compared to its metaphorical working title, ‘Salt is Leaving the Sea’) is a black comedy with Catholic guilt as the punch-line. The guilt is the love manifested in four unique forms of love found in the Bible to contradict each other. All the burden of love is the cross that Sister Maryam (Maudy Koesnaedi, profoundly) has to bear in her via dolorosa of life.

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Review Mantan Manten (2019)

It’s flawed, but Mantan Manten manages to deliver an emotionally gripping look on letting go of love lost from an unusual take on Javanese matrimony tradition.‬

Farishad Latjuba’s Mantan Manten could easily slip into a maudlin melodrama or simply a mess given its convoluted, ambitious yet heartbreaking premise. The title (literally meaning: former bride) does not suggest otherwise and we know pretty well how romance movies easily sugar-coats tragedy to push an overemotional haul. And yet, Mantan Manten caught me off guard when it acknowledges the flaws and manages to deliver an emotionally gripping look on letting go of love lost from an unusual view of Javanese matrimony tradition.‬

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Review Five Feet Apart (2019)

Five Feet Apart is like a deliberately sappy fanfiction of The Fault in Our Stars saved by Haley Lu Richardson’s star-making performance and Cole Sprouse’s ethereal charm.

We have seen this kind of terminal romance over and over again. From the lots of award-darling, Love Story (1970), to the surprisingly good John Green’s adaptation, The Fault in Our Stars; or from the lots of sappy Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember to the melodramatic Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, Hollywood seems to always find more disease to jerk audiences’ tears with the glorified disease porn movies. Five Feet Apart adds up to that latter list of tearjerker—well-intended and well-acted; but too fixated to the young-adult tropes that it washes down the fore-mentioned two qualities.

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Review Friend Zone (2019)

Friend Zone, while building the narrative on an overly familiar material plus some jetset life clichés, can still deliver its hook right at the gut.

Friend Zone adopts an idea that has been too familiar that we almost take it for granted. A story of a guy who falls hard to a girl (vice versa) but ends up as friends, instead of lovers, is a tragedy since forever. Before the term was popularized by Joey Tribbiani in sitcom Friends, Edgar Linton has been friend-zoned by Catherine Earnshaw in Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and, since then, we’ve heard a lot of similar stories or even get ourselves tangled in such stories. That does not refrain this new GDH romance from reminding us on how beautiful and sentimental this state can be.

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Review Isn’t It Romantic (2019)

Even when Isn’t It Romantic? fell into the subject it tries to criticize, it’s still uplifting. Thanks to Rebel Wilson.

At the beginning of Isn’t It Romantic, young Natalie was smitten into Pretty Woman when her mother scolded her and indoctrinated her to despise romcoms of any kind. To her, life isn’t like romcom; to her, all the happy endings in romcoms are merely a start of an unhappy life. She grows up being a love cynic (portrayed by Rebel Wilson, all-in with the Australian accent) making a living in New York as an architect who constantly bashes romcom premises until some sh*t happens. She hit her head during a confrontation with a mugger and she wakes up in a romcom… a PG-13 romcom.

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Review Fall in Love at First Kiss (2019)

Fall in Love at First Kiss could’ve delivered a more heartwarming romance which pays beautiful tribute to the source material, whichever it refers to.

Frankie Chen’s Fall in Love at First Kiss (一吻定情) adds another entry to the list of Kaoru Tada’s manga, Itazura Na Kiss screen adaptations (which has spawned various television series in Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan). Chen’s version takes a closer approach to the first Taiwanese incarnation, It Started with a Kiss (惡作劇之吻), especially by using the established character names and settings. While the plot might sound eerie and unhealthy in deeper observation, the movie’s sugarcoating—with bubble-gum visuals and comical characters—can, at times, divert the attention to a distant lesson.

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Review Dilan 1991 (2019)

Bypassing all the character introductory phases, the romance rift in Dilan 1991 is sadly underwhelming even when the chemistry between Iqbaal and Vanesha starts to make sense.

In a decade or two, Dilan, as a character, might still be remembered as an illustrious Indonesian teenage boy icon—rising into some cult status along with Lupus and Si Boy. By that time, it might not be surprising if new incarnations of Dilan will rise into prominence; while, Iqbaal Ramadhan’s exhilarating performance (which beats all the odds) will become a solid benchmark. In like manner, Dilan-Milea romance might also transcend the time, like Galih & Ratna or others (I was about to write: Rangga & Cinta from Ada Apa dengan Cinta?, but then I imagined the backlash). However, that’s not the case for the movies—both Dilan 1990 and Dilan 1991.

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