The Jakarta Post
Italy dreaming: Set partly in Italy, the film aims to reach out into a romantic environment. (Seven Sunday Films/File)
Look, I will just be honest here, The Gift, to me, is just an okay film – not good, not bad either. It satisfies the viewer, it tugs at our heartstrings but that is about it. Kind of like a typical romance drama should be.
The thing that makes this film stand out is that it is acted very well by its talented cast, and is direction, by Hanung Bramantyo, is okay. But just okay.
I do not really have a strong opinion on this film because it is simply not the kind of film that inspires strong feelings in me. It just sits in the center neatly.
The Gift is a romance drama with an ordinary love story, but has interesting twists that expand the characters’ depth. The romance is not the main attraction here. Nor is the “are you willing to risk everything for who you love?” idea.
The main takeaway from this film is the importance of forgiving yourself, and not letting your past consume you forever in order to really move forward with life, which is an idea that is not really that accepted in a vengeful, judgmental society like Indonesia’s.
The best aspects about The Gift come mainly from its cast, especially from lead actress Ayushita Nugraha, who is probably one of the most underrated but distinctive actresses in Indonesia.
Ayushita has her own unique character that she manages to inject into almost every role she plays. You get the feeling that she does not really have to tap beyond her own personality to make her role interesting.
One can say that her gestures, her expressions and the way she talks are quintessentially distinctive of her and no one else. For an artist, this kind of quality is incredibly valuable.
Blinded when I see you: Reza Rahadian’s and Ayushita Nugraha’s characters embrace on a beach in Yogyakarta as they play out their love story (Seven Sunday Films/File)
Her performance is balanced with performances by two other lead actors that project character, Reza Rahadian and Dion Wiyoko.
Reza’s portrayal as Harun, the blind, sarcastic spoiled rich kid who slowly develops as a person, is done convincingly and wonderfully, while Dion’s performance as the perfect-on-the-surface Indonesian doctor Arie does not need a lot of effort to make good.
Love triangle stories are super cringeworthy in general, but at least in this film, it is woven into the story in a way that does not really nauseate. But I don’t know, maybe others will feel differently about it.
The Gift does not wallow in sappiness or emotional fishing when it comes to the romantic scenes between Ayushita and Dion, or Reza. The film is sappy, yes, but it is pulled off in a way that does not exaggerate the sadness.
There is a degree of drama that seems to be always present in Hanung’s films. One can say the romance dynamic is similar to his 2008 smash hit Ayat-Ayat Cinta (Verses of Love) or maybe the dramatic parts of his historical flicks, as in last year’s Kartini. But comparing The Gift with Kartini or his biopic on Soekarno, Hanung is really better off filming fictional stories rather than historical ones.
With talk of his planned adaptation of literary masterpiece Bumi Manusia by Indonesia’s greatest author of all time Pramoedya Ananta Toer copping flak for his cast choices and generally unappreciative approach toward such a majestic project, it will be interesting to see if he can pull it off.
Because if you look at The Gift, Hanung can certainly make good films, but when tackling subjects that are bigger than himself, he really has to be careful. He did not make a clean landing with Soekarno or Kartini, and he is in danger of doing the same with Bumi Manusia.
He should stick to fantasy, because he at least does that well.
(Seven Sunday; 116 minutes)
Director: Hanung Bramantyo
Screenplay: Ifan Ismail
Cast: Ayushita Nugraha, Reza Rahadian, Dion Wiyoko, Christine Hakim