Yuni (2021)

The specificity of its cultural context just about lifts this nuanced Indonesian drama about a high school girl torn between the custom of accepting marriage proposals and her dreams of further studies.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,358

Dir. Kamila Andini
2021 | Indonesia | Drama | 95 mins | 1.85:1 | Serang-Javanese
NC16 (passed clean) for some sexual scenes

Cast: Arawinda Kirana, Kevin Ardilova, Dimas Aditya, Marissa Anita, Asmara Abigail
Plot: In her last year of secondary school, a bright Indonesian student is determined to pursue her education and resist getting married, despite the expectations of her community.
Awards: Won Platform Prize (Toronto)
International Sales: Cercamon (SG: Anticipate Pics)

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Coming-of-age; Arranged Marriage
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: The Projector
Spoilers: No

Indonesian cinema is a continuing blind spot for me.  I can only count with one palm the number of Indonesian films I’ve seen.  Having heard good things about Yuni and the rise of director Kamila Andini, I decided to give it a go.  It’s not bad—nuanced and vital, which is how I would describe it. 

Andini tells the story of a high school girl (Arawinda Kirana in a delicate performance) torn between the custom of accepting marriage proposals and her dreams of further studies. 

It’s a zero-sum game—her happiness or her parents’ happiness, freedom or dependence, unpredictability or stability.  Because it is set in Indonesia, the specificity of its cultural context just about lifts the drama, thus making it, as I described, vital. 

“You shouldn’t reject a proposal more than twice. It will bring bad luck.”

Without it, the narrative beats and storytelling trajectory could be seen as falling back to familiar tropes.  Not that that’s a bad thing, but there are too many of these kinds of indie coming-of-age type movies from different parts of the world that they all blur into one huge mass of epiphanies and tragedies. 

Only deep, insightful context or incredible filmmaking skill or vision would set them apart. To its credit, Yuni doesn’t fall into the vague trappings of the subgenre, but neither does it truly soar or feel impactful to me. 

It does get the message across though, and sometimes in a frank way about how deep-rooted patriarchy and tradition dictate the lives of young women. 

Andini has a new film (her fourth feature) out at the 2022 Berlinale called Nana to look forward to, with Kirana starring again.

Grade: B


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