'Susah Sinyal': Finding human connection

Reza Mardian

Film enthusiast and a big fan of Disney, Pixar, Studio Ghibli, and all films in the running for an Oscar or Festival Film Indonesia award

Jakarta

Jakarta, posted: Wed, January 3, 2018 | 11:47 am

Susah Sinyal (2017) tells a story about a miscommunication between a thirty-eight-year-old single parent named Ellen (Adinia Wirasti), who is also a super busy lawyer and her seventeen-year-old rebellious daughter named Kiara (Aurora Ribero).(Starvision/File)

Susah Sinyal ( 2017 ) tells a story about a miscommunication between a thirty-eight-year-old single parent named Ellen (Adinia Wirasti), who is also a super busy lawyer and her seventeen-year-old rebellious daughter named Kiara (Aurora Ribero), who spends most of her time with her grandmother, Agatha (Nieniek L. Kariem). When Agatha passes away, Ellen and Kiara’s relationship worsens.

In order to fix their connection, Ellen then asks Kiara to take a vacation to a beautiful place named Sumba without even knowing that Sumba doesn’t have proper phone signal. The question raised throughout the whole story is whether Ellen and Kiara can fix the connection between them with the lack of signal around Sumba.

In his third film, the thirty-five-year-old writer-director Ernest Prakasa still uses his unique approach to creating a proportionate family drama with comedic elements in the story. Various Indonesian comics playing supporting roles in the movie ensure every punchline is delivered gracefully. As a stand-up comic himself, Ernest uses various comedic techniques to surprise the audience. The highlights are a trio of reporters and Tante Maya (Asri Welas), who kill the audience with laughter every time they show up.

Despite the comedy, Susah Sinyal falls short in its dramatic element compared to the phenomenal Cek Toko Sebelah. As in Ernest's previous movies, Susah Sinyal offers a relatable premise to anyone, this time it is about people who are unable to spend time with their loved ones.

Sadly, the movie creates overly complicated characters. Adinia Wirasti delivers a magnificent performance as Ellen. Yet, her character is so complicated that it is not that easy to relate to her until the very last sequences.

There are also several characters upholding the main spirit of the movie, one of whom is Iwan (Ernest Prakasa), who is always too busy to talk to his Mom (Dayu Wijanto) whenever she calls. However, although his scenes are comedic gold, it is rather disappointing that his subplot fails to get a proper resolution by the end of the movie. 

Probably, the purpose of his character is to remind the audience not to be like him. Prior to the premiere, I promised myself to actually go and greet the cast and crew to congratulate them. But after the movie ended, the first thing I wanted to do was to go back home and spend more time with my mom. 

Susah Sinyal may not be Ernest Prakasa’s best work, but it is definitely worth a watch. It is worth noting that Ernest steps out of his comfort zone by not focusing on Chinese culture this time. The beautiful landscape of Sumba enhances the cinematic experience, as evidenced in Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts and The Golden Cane Warrior.

His film Ngenest raises awareness about the problems faced by the Chinese minority through Ernest’s own hilarious biopic, while Cek Toko Sebelah helps you to try to understand what your loved ones really want. This time, Susah Sinyal will ask you to contemplate whether you have spent enough time with the person you love the most. (dev)

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Reza Mardian is a film enthusiast and a big fan of Disney, Pixar, Studio Ghibli, and any films in the race for an Oscar and Festival Film Indonesia award. He is also a nursing graduate who is not working as a nurse.

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ernest-prakasa movies Indonesian-movies