Review: A Perfect Fit is a gentle commentary on contemporary Indonesian life

A Perfect Fit (PG, 112 minutes)

3 stars

The island of Bali, beautiful in so many ways, forms the backdrop for this sweet romance from the Indonesian film industry. The story is set among the locals and has virtually nothing to do with the foreign visitors that have been descending on the tropical paradise for as long as anyone can remember.

With a rating that allows for young viewers, A Perfect Fit is modest, as we would expect an Indonesian film to be. There is a bit of touching, holding hands and some shy kissing.

Nadya Arina and Refal Hady in A Perfect Fit. Picture: Netflix

Nadya Arina and Refal Hady in A Perfect Fit. Picture: Netflix

The going only gets a bit rough in a couple of realistic fight scenes over the love interest, but physical violence is never as scrutinised as sex by the local censors.

The romantic couple meet by chance and are instantly drawn to each other when fashion blogger, Saski (Nadya Arina), goes shopping for shoes. She sees something she likes in the window of a new business that Rio (Refal Hady) is setting up, and she likes the way he can gauge the size she needs without taking measurements.

Problem is that Saski is already spoken for. She will soon marry the execrable Deni (Giorgino Abraham), the arrogant, aggressive son of a wealthy family.

It's a sign for hope that the prophetic signs for the wedding between Deni and Saski are not propitious. The couple's birthdays are ill-matched, and they will need interventions prior to the wedding for things to work out.

The local Macassan traditions that interrogate the imminent union are an interesting interpellation. Lontar belief systems are as active as Saski's close friend Andra (Laura Theux) in questioning the marriage.

For light-hearted comedy, there are also several the taxi drivers who do their bit trying to bring the right couple together in the end.

Family circumstances are an obstacle to true love, as Rio and Saski's mothers prefer a match with a more obviously upwardly mobile partner. A marriage with Deni would assist Saski's family financially, and open up the possibility for her having her own fashion boutique. Rio's mother wants him to marry his childhood friend, Tiara (Anggiki Bolsterli), who has plans to use his design flair in her shoe factory business. With her Masters degree and her views on Indonesian workers who don't cut it in her factory, she is formidable.

The four central young characters, representing different social positions, open the door for discussion about how much attention they should pay to cultural traditions, and what the roles of men and the role of women are in contemporary marriage.

The screenplay was written by Garin Nugroho, who has been, for some time, one of the pre-eminent of the older generation of Indonesian filmmakers. He is best known internationally for serious films that combine Indonesia's art and cultural traditions with contemporary social commentary.

Deni is a standout character, particularly in the showdown between him and Saski that takes place on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. He has no illusions about himself. He's the guy he has always been, so why does she hesitate?

A Perfect Fit would have benefitted from a shorter running time, but there is sweet honesty to it. While several of the support characters deliver overdrawn characters, all the young lead actors, and most especially Arina and Abraham, are natural.

According to The Jakarta Post, the young female director of A Perfect Fit, Hadrah Daeng Ratu, has form in horror movies. She can clearly cross genres with ease. In a scene between gentle Rio and his mother, Ibu Rio (Unique Priscilla) informs him that Charlie Chaplin visited their island home in 1932. News to me, but a documentary about this was released recently.

It would be perverse to ignore the things about Bali, its people and culture that enchanted Chaplin and countless other tourists visiting Bali over the decades. Yet the film does not labour the point, and uses aspects of Balinese life sparingly.

The terraced rice fields, the beauty of the coastline, and the vibrant street processions and the gentle people are all in there, but this is no advert. It is an interesting insight into contemporary Indonesian culture for the curious.

This story Gentle social commentary in Bali first appeared on The Canberra Times.