If one were to get a vivid description of what life is like in the bustling capital of Jakarta, or a general picture of life in Indonesia, this is exactly the movie to watch. From the array of movies I found in the cinema, it is sometimes difficult to find a real portrayal of my country and this particular flick will sure open people’s eyes to not of the glitzy corporate world of Jakarta, nor what so dark about it. But the real deal. It is absorbing, so consuming that I was entirely glued to the screen the whole time.
First we see Sari, a beauty-salon worker who spends her day giving facials at a low-grade salon. Yet, she possesses a keen interest on b-grade “monster” movies on pirated DVD’s that she watches in her cramped room. Of course, scratchy subtitles should be of no surprise. She is nonetheless frustrated, so as she went off to exchange her DVD, she was faced with Alex who is exactly behind the jumbled words.
One meeting led to the next and in no time, they were watching more movies together and a romance blossoms within their cramped dwellings. Then, Sari begins to find a new job at an upscale salon, but she eventually finds watching the senior colleagues give facial treatments. To compensate, her bos assigns her to a ‘high profile’ convict, Mrs. Mirna. Here we see that despite being idealistic, her poor judgment led to stealing a DVD from Mirna. Little did she know, that she is about the very reason for Mirna’s capture.
As a wry comment to Indonesia’s political turmoil, the couple’s discovery puts them in an inescapable danger.
Having watched a Joko Anwar production before, he has once again succeeded in giving the audience characters and plotlines to be so emotionally invested in because that type of connection is what I always seek in books, music and film. The cinematography for this is simple, yet sharp without being overly detailed, as the sauna-like back alleys, packed streets and occasional shots of real Jakartans are so defined in their genuineness. It was so satisfying to me and I particularly relished in how the beads of sweats from Jakarta’s heat made Sari and Alex’s screen radiate in amber. In addition to that, how they lived in unconditioned rooms, with almost no place to lounge around, made me appreciate every piece of comfort I have so far been blessed with.
Sari and Alex is a perfect chemistry of charm and authenticity. That the simplest things contribute to their happiness. Okay, we might frown upon, let’s say, what they do for a living, or their careless actions, but it was what they had to do to get have a plate of rice to get them through each day.
You will realize that behind the skyscrapers, people like Sari and Alex probably make up most of the population in Jakarta. Therefore, it was such a treat for me that people will view the movie as an it-is-what-it-is situation and you will root, hard, for Sari and Alex as they grapple with the truth.
After all, it should set you free.