Thursday, February 9, 2023

Dear David: Movie Review

Dear David is an Indonesian romantic drama, with a really good primary plot that becomes frustrating at times but nails the ending. Laras (Shenina Cinnamon) is a top student, who’s shy and a loner, and retreats into a fantasy world where she writes erotic fiction about David, a boy at school that she has a crush on. When her private blog gets leaked, everybody’s worlds get turned upside down.   2023

Directed by: Lucky Kuswandi

Screenplay by: Winnie Benjamin, David Sumolang, and Muhammad Zaidy

Starring: Shenina Cinnamon, Emir Mahira

This is extremely universal; every culture and every generation has their own version of private info getting broadcast to the entire school. Whether it’s Gen X having their diaries stolen and photocopies getting taped up, or the youngest generation having their phones hacked and nude photos getting emailed to everyone. This situation is in between the two, but the administration’s actions and how the students are forced to respond will ring true for everyone, and that’s where the frustration lies.

I wanted to yell at the characters for being unrealistic, but they’re not, and if you would like a movie to shape future responses rather than reiterating dated and misogynistic lies meant to hurt those who are already hurting, you just have to make it to the end. After the school figures out which computer classroom was responsible for the leak, the principal approaches that class and expects whoever wrote the blog to admit it, in front of everyone. First off, of course they’re not going to admit it in front of all their classmates; secondly, the principal only cares who wrote it not who leaked it. That’s the realistic part and extremely frustrating. The leaking it is where privacy laws are broken, but the school’s argument is that the blog is embarrassing and hurts the school’s reputation. Reputations are more important than laws. Always has been and probably always will be.

Meanwhile David knows who wrote it, but Laras would rather be angry and not recognize the target that has now been placed on his back and the bullying that he is now experiencing. And of course with the writer not coming forward, fellow students and the school have decided that Dilla, a confident girl who has been labelled the school slut, must be responsible for writing it; because of course, if a trio of mean girls call somebody a slut, then they must be a slut and take responsibility for everything. It gets frustrating and then more frustrating.

That plot goes on the backburner for a bit and the movie slows down significantly when it becomes a complicated love triangle between Laras and David and Dilla. One of whom doesn’t actually know the truth. The romance angle isn’t nearly as interesting as the set-up and resolution to the leaked blog. The film has really nice production values and set design which should help to keep viewers watching through the weaker scenes.

Dear David is worth sticking it out for the ending. The next time this happens in real life, either show the school’s administrator this movie, or have the confidence to pull off Laras' final speech which is extremely satisfying.

Available on Netflix worldwide

Something Similar But Different:

  Royalteen (2022) - A teen drama mixing in a royal romance with the consequences of social media excesses and rumours destroying lives.

  Dangerous Liaisons (2022) - Rich and bored teens in a stylish and modern adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons.

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