Tersanjung: The Movie will likely fly under the radar on Netflix, which would be a shame — this touching Indonesian romance is one of the better films of the year so far.
This review of Tersanjung: The Movie is spoiler-free.
The Indonesian movie scene is primarily known for horror and action, but recently the streaming giant has been treating its ginormous audience to more low-key romantic dramas. Unfortunately, the Big N doesn’t tend to market them very well, which is a shame, since Tersanjung: The Movie falls neatly into that latter category and also happens to be one of the better films of the year.
Brimming with worthwhile themes and ideas, the cultural subtext of Tersanjung doesn’t overwhelm what is, at its core, a class-conscious romance between a woman, Yura (Clara Bernadeth), and her two best friends, Oka (Kevin Ardilio) and Christian (Giorgino Abraham). Yura’s life is thrown into a downward spiral when she’s forced into an arranged marriage to pay off the debts of her struggling musician father and step-mother, and the entitlement of her well-off would-be suitor leads to many personal and financial travesties.
Yura finds solace — and partners in a fledgling instant noodle business — in Oka and Christian, and their considerable chemistry is what Tersanjung: The Movie burns for fuel. You buy into their relationship almost immediately, which is just as well, since it takes some dramatic turns. But they all, crucially, feel natural, and true to a setting in which family, wealth, and reputation count for almost everything.
Themes of arranged marriage, sexual abuse, classism, and true love play out against the backdrop of — I think — the riots of 1998, with Jakarta and the rest of Indonesia in political and social turmoil. There’s a considerable amount to like about the film, from some striking images to truly moving scenes and ideas; it’s touching without being manipulative, either, and the grounded nature of the drama helps to offset some of the soapier turns. Excellent leading performances — Bernadeth in the lead is superb, and Ardilio is a particularly likable presence — are the icing on the cake.