A unique premise for a teen drama can’t save stale chemistry and letting the main character off the hook for her actions.
Directed by Lucky Kuswandi, we review the Netflix film Dear David, which does not contain spoilers.
Over the past few years, Netflix has become the go-to home for mostly clean high school teen movies. While some of them achieve the heights of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before or last year’s Do Revenge, most of them are subpar. It’s an easy genre to do wrong, and unfortunately, the Indonesian Dear David falters despite its unique premise.
Dear David Review and plot summary
Dear David opens much like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before does, with a fantasy sequence of our protagonist and her crush. However, Dear David‘s Laras (Shenina Cinnamon) writes smutty fanfiction about herself and soccer team star David (Emir Mahira) in a variety of situations. The student body president is otherwise known for being a squeaky-clean teacher’s pet who attends the expensive private school on a scholarship of which her single mother is very proud.
Between helping the principal, staying at the top of her classes, and attending church with her mom, Laras doesn’t have much time left for a social life — so she indulges in her fanfiction in which she images herself in varying romantic encounters with David. He’s not only a talented athlete at school, she also knows him from church and their parents encourage their tentative friendship.
However, when a school computer fails to properly log out of Laras’s account, one of her classmates leaks the URL of her fanfiction blog. David is embarrassed, though the steamy writings make all the girls at school obsessed with him. Laras is mortified and terrified of anyone finding out that she’s the author, especially as the administration starts a puritan witch hunt to find out who’s behind the stories.
Blame easily falls upon Dilla (Caitli North Lewis), Laras’s former best friend and the “class s**t.” Rumors spread about her by one of the popular boys in their year plus the somewhat scandalous photos she posts on her Instagram have ostracized Dilla despite her good looks. But Laras feels guilty when she realizes that her former friend might face expulsion for something she didn’t even do.
This is a teen drama so of course there has to be a love triangle. Laras likes David, but he is harboring a flame for Dilla and asks for Laras’s help getting close to her. The events that unravel from this situation take us on a series of twists and turns that are genuinely creative. Unfortunately, the film isn’t able to stick the landing, letting Laras off too easily for writing inappropriate works about one of her classmates and publishing them publicly.
The movie isn’t interested in examining whether Laras is actually in the right for the fanfiction she’s created, instead treating it as an issue of the administration trying to shut down young women’s sexuality. So despite the way that the film treats a character with anxiety and one who is LGBT+, it leaves a somewhat bad taste in my mouth.
Is the movie Dear David good?
Dear David seems promising in the first 45 minutes, with its unique premise and decent performances from Cinnamon and Lewis. Unfortunately, the characters have stale chemistry together and the film lasts for far too long, overstaying its welcome for at least thirty minutes too long.
Despite the other ways in which it provides positive representation for characters not seen often enough in this genre, the way that it blindly excuses Laras’s behavior is concerning. Netflix certainly has plenty of teen dramas to pick from, so you can skip Dear David.
What did you think of the 2023 Netflix film Dear David? Comment below.