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MOVIES (GFF 2022): Yuni - Review

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In a good world, Yuni has the raw power and honesty of a coming-of-age story that should put it right up there with the classics of coming-of-age stories – it calls back to films like the free-spirited Mustang and presents a wholly unique cultural iconoclast, with director Kamila Andini injecting a sense of yearning and ambition into Arawinda Kirana’s protagonist Yuni, who is trapped in a community where marriage is the expectation for her and she has no choice in who she marries. You see the pain, heartache and longing in Kirana’s expression as she brings Yuni’s character to perfect life, as her character expresses anger at the system she finds herself in where she shouldn’t have to be in a position to make these choices.

This is a film that completely blew my expectations out of the water – the winner of the Platform Prize at TIFF, it hits all the right coming of age boxes but presents them in a completely authentic way unique to it – exposing the beliefs that rural Indonesia imposes on women to an audience watching that might not have experience or knowledge of the country and what it’s like gives this film a relevant message to tell. Given its subject matter it can be tough to watch but there’s so much beauty in this it’s hard to look away from – and it completely finds a way to pull you in as you watch Yuni struggle to fight for her own agency, which should be a basic human right for anyone.

It doesn’t feel at all pretentious and instead comes right from the heart – with its characters never being entirely black and white being its biggest asset. It gives an honest, two-dimensional approach to people still at school in an age where so many movies and shows that cover this period in our lives are simply afraid to do so or unbothered to try. It’s a testament to the film that it never makes a big deal out of anything here yet at the same time makes Yuni feel like her whole world revolves around her, and simply allows its characters to exist in it – living and breathing, making the quieter moments feel all the more important because of these choices.

The usage of colours are unique and really add to the mood to the piece – Yuni’s obsession with the colour purple is called out on, but never explained or justified – the simple quirks like her having dyed purple hair go some way to adding depth in their own right. You’ll care deeply about her from the first frame and you’ll want her to succeed every step of the way – no matter the forces fighting against her.

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