What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love: Sundance Review

What They Dont Talk About When They Talk About Love

Indonesia (Director and screenwriter: Mouly Surya)

Mouly Surya’s film explores the odds of love and deception among the blind, the deaf and the unlucky sighted people at a high school for the visually impaired. Cast: Nicholas Saputra, Ayushita Nugraha, Karina Salim, Anggun Priambodo, Lupita Jennifer. World Premiere

Touching and brilliantly envisioned story of a young, nearly blind teen’s first love.

Moving musical and cinematic composition help Mouly Surya's film depict visually impaired teens and their first experiences with love.

PARK CITY - This film with the too-long title is the first Indonesian film to play at the Sundance film festival. It’s an auspicious first.

An entrant in the World Dramatic Competition, the filmic effort (like its big mouthful of a title) perhaps bites off more than it can chew. After all, seeing young love through the “eyes” of a blind teen is a daunting narrative challenge. Yet, filmmaker Mouly Surya is more than up to the task with her exquisite mix of music, movement and cinematic composition. The film alights with graceful insights and strokes that are sensual and, alas, multi-sensory.

In this tender yarn, Diana (Karina Salim) and Fitri (Ayushita Nugraha) are two visually impaired teenage girls: Diana is myopic, meaning she can see things only an inch in front of her, while Fitri has been blind since birth. They both experience the pangs and yearnings of love, but must transcend their lack of sight to envision it. It’s a struggle as they grapple to understand and fathom what they feel through other senses: touch, sound, and movement. Their missteps causing misconceptions are sometimes heartbreaking but both are gifted with a sublime resilience.

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As the delicate and balletic Diana, Salim is sublime, captivating both in her confusion and courage. Nugraha is similarly radiant in her raw and pure groping for love.

Blending story forms, including a supernatural element involving a “ghost doctor,” filmmaker Surya has magically captured the grace and inner spirit of the blind teens. Best, the film never reverts to maudlin, tear-jerker elements that often reduce similar love stories involving impaired people.

Although it drifts somewhat in its latter portion, the ending is capped off with a fitting version of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Throughout, Zeke Khaseli’s zesty musical score clues us to the character’s emotional struggles.

Cast: Nicholas Saputra, Ayushita Nugraha, Karina Salim, Anggun (cq) Priambodo, Lupita Jennifer

Production companies: Cinesurya, Amalina Pictures

Director/Screenwriter: Mouly Surya

Producers: Rama Adi, Tia Hasibuan, Faizan Zidni

Director of photography: Yunus Pasolang

Music: Zeke Khaseli

Editor: Kelvin Nugroho

No rating, 110 minutes.