In a matter of a decade, the Indonesian film industry has become one of the most important in Asia. We could say that the Indonesian film industry has always been strong. Still, with the international success of films like The Raid series, Indonesia was suddenly in the eye of the storm, and many were looking to distribute their films worldwide. A decade after that, we can see Indonesian films and TV shows all over streaming services, especially on Netflix, where many productions have found a place to call home. Dear David is just the newest Indonesian film to come to the service.
Dear David is a film directed by Lucky Kuswandi and stars Shenina Cinnamon, Emir Mahira, Michael James, and Caitlin North Lewis. The film tells the story of a girl named, Laras. She is pretty intelligent and spends most of her time studying. The result is that Laras has zero social life and even distances herself from her few friends. However, Laras has a dark secret. She has a personal blog where she writes about her most kinky fantasies involving her crush, a fellow student named David. When the blog leaks to everyone, chaos ensues.
Dear David takes the classic setup of Cyrano and places it in the context of an Indonesian high school, and like many other stories that have used that setup, it just works. There is a reason why the level of Cyrano has maintained itself relevant throughout the centuries. It is a story that appeals to our more primal desires as human beings but also connects with our most profound insecurities. We have all felt like Cyrano at some point in our lives, so getting to see this type of story just makes us connect with ourselves, which is something not many people do.
The film takes the Cyrano setup and adds its own twist, which in this case, is social media, and the strict control Indonesian schools have over these matters. Of course, you need a bit of exaggeration for the story to work, but the setup is almost perfect. Using this premise, the story moves at a very comfortable pace. The film might end up being longer than it has to be tough, with many scenes prolonging or overextending, a result that is more than obvious, but apart from this, the movie is a very well-made piece of romantic fiction.
Fan fiction is something that is not often tackled in film or TV, so the fact that this movie bases its central premise around the fan fiction of one student whose writings can be taken out of context feels quite relevant in today’s internet culture. All the actors do a great job, especially the kids. The story is theirs, and they are the ones who receive most of the running time. The problems they face are not original to them. They are the same issues we see teens from other countries having as well. It really makes you see that we are more similar than we think.
Cinnamon and North Lewis are really the stars of the show. The movie focuses significantly on their relationship, friendship, and what tore them apart years ago. Cinnamon plays our Cyrano, Laras, with strength and dynamism, while North Lewis plays her character, Dilla, as more than just a pretty girl and Davi’s source of desire. David, the noble and Laras’ love interest, does a good job as well. The three of them make for a great trio to watch, but the girls really have the chance to shine in ways that David does not.
Visually, the movie is pretty standard. You won’t be seeing great use of cinematography here. The director is content with showing the actors and their emotions in the best possible way. A bit more flare when it comes to using the frame to tell the story would have been great, but there is enough here to make the movie compelling to watch. You will be too busy caring about the characters for anything else to bother you. The music is also very passable; several songs spread throughout the movie don’t make a big impression.
The drama is also pretty basic, but it is its simplicity that really takes you aback. There is a sense of nostalgia going around the film, and the actors and the story really bring the point home. Unrequited love is quite powerful. You might even feel like it is the end of the world when someone you love with all your heart doesn’t love you back. But it passes, and there might be something better on the way. The movie takes all these developments and gives them time to shine. It all feels quite melodramatic at times, but it is also quite cathartic.
In the end, Dear David is just a simple teen movie that uses the Cyrano setup for some very well-constructed drama. It might all feel quite familiar, but it just works because it is a story that taps into universal feelings that are real and powerful. Laras’ journey through the pains of the heart is quite compelling and shows that Indonesia really has every corner of film production covered. They have already proven they can produce spectacular action films, vicious crime dramas, hilarious comedies, and some tender romances.