'Homecoming' ('Mudik'): Film Review

Courtesy of International Film Festival & Awards Macao
An allegorical marriage story from Indonesia leaves too much unsaid.

A modern, young Indonesian couple on a road trip runs over a villager and faces the consequences in Adriyanto Dewo’s second feature.

It takes courage to face the music after causing a fatal road accident, even when wealth, privilege and the police are on your side. In Homecoming (Mudik), Indonesian director Adriyanto Dewo (Tabula Rasa) describes a little too neatly how the accidental killing of a village man provides the shock needed for Aida to make sense of her life and her marriage. There is dramatic incident, to be sure, but the film is really one long inner battle, not always crystal clear, as Aida struggles to break through a series of disappointments that are poisoning her life. Screened in competition at the International Film Festival & Awards Macao, the wandering, sometimes startling storyline will be more culturally self-evident to Asian audiences.

For one thing, although Aida (Putri Ayudya) was driving the SUV when the accident happened, it is her husband, Firman (Ibnu Jamil), who is held responsible. “Why did you let her drive?” is one of the first questions angrily asked of him. Another show-stopper is Firman’s confession to Aida that his parents have given their permission for him to take a second wife. In moments like these, one commiserates with the dazed look of helplessness on Aida’s very modern face.

Not only is the drama told through her eyes, but her progress from hating herself for not being able to conceive a child to apparent self-acceptance happens via her encounter with a woman whose troubles are greater than her own. This is Santi (Asmara Abigail of Ghost Writer), the dead man's young widow. Once again, it is a woman’s difficult life that the writer-director chooses to highlight, while the men sink into the background.

Aida and Firman’s marriage is on the rocks, and it isn’t clear whether they’ll stay together after sharing a homecoming trip for the Eid holidays. The long drive before them recalls Roberto Rossellini’s classic Journey to Italy, leading to the idea there will be a clarification before they reach their destination. And so it is. Aida is behind the wheel and is clearly upset when there is a sickening bump. After initially driving on, they go back and follow the ambulance to a hospital. When the doctor tells Santi her husband is dead, Aida steps forward and confesses it was she who hit him.

One of the more curious things is how the police (who hear everything) play little role in the drama that follows. Following the widow to a poor rural village, Firman is accosted by the village leaders. They demand $2,000 in compensation for the death, which is then the subject of haggling, feinting and raised voices, as though the dead man’s life was a dusty carpet whose value depended on bargaining skill. The widow isn’t present; she tearfully tells Aida she doesn’t even want the money.

Santi, as it turns out, hasn’t seen her husband for five years. He has been working abroad, and only her insistence that he come home for the holidays made him ride his motorbike down that fateful road at night. Her grief has deeper roots, as Aida and Firman discover when she asks them to take her far from the gossipy villagers, along with her little daughter and her boyfriend. She’s pregnant, and the death of her husband has made it impossible for her to pretend he’s the father.

The slippery final sequences take place amid the crowds flocking to pray during the religious festivity. They have a very different outcome from the Rossellini film, though a small miracle is there to gladden the heart.   

Production companies: Relate Films, Lifelike Pictures
Cast: Putri Ayudya, Ibnu Jamil, Asmara Abigail, Yoga Pratama
Director, screenwriter: Adriyanto Dewo
Producer: Perlita Desiani
Co-producer: Sheila Timothy
Director of photography: Vera Lestafa
Costume designer: Angela Suri
Editor: Arifin Cu’unk
Music: Indra Perkasa
Venue: International Film Festival & Awards Macao (international competition)
93 minutes