The Heartbreak Club is light and familiar, playing in well-worn genre territory, but its enthusiasm and affection for the work of Didi Kempot helps to sugar the formulaic pill.
Some themes are universal, and breakups are one of them. Everyone knows what it’s like. There you are, imagining spending the rest of your life with someone who’s banging the milkman or whatever. That kind of thing’s a blow. It’s hard to get over. And people have all kinds of ways of coping with that sort of heartbreak – music probably chief among them.
Music is the art form I understand least but find the most immediately powerful. A song – and it doesn’t even have to be a good one – can be a snapshot of your life, every thought and feeling you had at the time bundled up in a catchy chorus or a moving verse. Netflix’s The Heartbreak Club, from directors Bagus Bramanti and Charles Gozali with a screenplay from Bramanti and Gea Rexy, threads an ode to the musical career of Indonesian singer-songwriter Didi Kempot through a formulaic romantic-comedy narrative, to predictable but inoffensive effect. But that essential power of music to capture the contours of grief and loss is felt here, giving a light film a slightly heavier load.
When Jatmiko (Bhisma Mulia) is left lovelorn by Saras (Denira Wiraguna), the question is whether he’ll ever be able to live his life in the same way again. Navigating the stages of grief and the meandering paths of a life suddenly derailed, finding something – or indeed someone – to latch onto, is played-out material, and Mulia’s likable turn isn’t enough to distract from that familiarity. Neither are the eye-roll-inducing comedic moments, very many of which don’t land. But the music is there to energize proceedings and just about manages to do so, though admittedly in a deliberately depth-averse way.
There’s little to recommend in The Heartbreak Club that isn’t baked into the premise. Solid acting, production, and cinematography help to sugar the pill but it’s still little more than a well-intentioned, tropey rom-com. There’s definitely a market for that – just don’t go in expecting anything more.