Two years ago, a case of dating abuse that befalls a female college student in ITB came to light. While it didn’t attract as many coverages as it should have, the proceeding did expose the flawed justice system in Indonesia and the ugly truth of how victim-blaming ran rampant in this supposedly tolerant society. A report by National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) unveiled that over two thousand cases of dating abuse were reported during the past year, or 21% of total reported violence against women. Keyword being reported, because we all know that far too many abuses went unreported for fear, shame, or failure to realize that they were victims of abuse.
In light of this situation, Posesif came as a breath of fresh air. It was daring in its decision to build its story around abusive relationships, particularly dating abuse. While it was still far from perfect, it was truthfully unsettling.
Lala (Putri Marino) was a platform diving athlete who just came back to school after a competition. A chance meeting led her to Yudhis (Adipati Dolken), the new kid. Sparks flew, and it was all rainbow and butterflies for the lovebirds.
Until it wasn’t.
While movies generally functioned as a form of escapism, it has also served as a medium to capture darker parts of reality. In these cases, movies then became a way to bring those issues to light and ignite conversations about it. For that alone, I applauded Edwin and Gina S. Noer’s decision to capture this certain issue. In a society where concern about abuse got dismissed as a way of caring, it was sobering to see the ugly truth that plagued our everyday life. That abuse is a prevalent problem that haunts every kind of relationship. Even in courtship and dating, as shown by Yudhis and Lala in Posesif.
The case of Lala and Yudhis was a textbook example of abuse, and Gina S. Noer was superb in narrating their relationship’s subtle change. The gesture came off as sweet, even if it was a tad overbearing. It was a clever set up to the surprising escalation, and the right framework for the dilemma it wrought. Everything, from Lala’s own reaction to how people around her handled the matter, felt like a picture perfect depiction of the real world. How often have we dismissed abuse victim’s concerns, and turned a blind eye towards their problems because we felt like they overreacted, or it was none of our business, or simply because we thought there was nothing wrong with the treatment they received?
Lala’s struggle was an all too familiar story about someone who got conned by love and deluded by lack of concern – and support – from her closest confidantes. The story would’ve taken a different turn if someone pours a bucket of cold realisation over her, or recognised the signs. The warnings were there, all right. But Lala and those around her ignored it because they weren’t aware of the danger it withheld. We just weren’t conditioned to know the signs of an abusive relationship and how to quickly get out of it, kept in blissful ignorance until the quicksand drowned us. And though abuses came in all form and shape, I could only hope the one in this movie was sobering enough to raise awareness about it. That alone would save lives.
Interestingly, Posesif then ventured into more than just dating abuse. It also touched on another type of abuse, one that unfortunately was sanctioned by society. The line between tough or overbearing love and parental abuse, after all, was one so blurred it was often hard to tell which is which. Do parents truly want the best for their child, or were they just projecting their own whim and desire? The dynamic between Lala and his father (portrayed by Yayu Unru) was especially intriguing. It was left to the viewers to decide whether Lala’s foray into platform diving was her own decision or if she was coerced by her father. Did she truly love it, or did she just internalised the values her father pushed on to her? To which extent is it acceptable for parents to make decisions for their children?
But as with the relationship it portrayed, Posesif wasn’t perfect. Despite Adipati Dolken’s best performance to date, Yudhis’s characterisation was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it showcased perfectly why he was an abuser and why Lala needed to get away from him. On the other hand, it undercut abuser’s biggest danger: their charm. Abusers are often charmers, and they know how to turn it up a notch. That’s why it’s so hard to pinpoint them or to believe the victim’s words about the atrocities they’ve committed, and that’s also why the victim found it hard to walk away. I didn’t feel that from Yudhis, and it made it harder for me to sympathise with Lala’s decisions. Which was such a shame, because I was hoping Posesif would be able to help people understand a victim’s point of view better and taught them to sympathise rather than judge.
Thankfully, the other performers eased the problem. Putri Marino offered a strong debut with her performance as Lala, igniting all kind of emotions for sympathy to exasperation. Yayu Unru complemented her perfectly as her father who has to wade through unknown territory in their relationship, and his struggle to keep their small family together. But the strongest performance was given by Cut Mini. She was impressive and awe-inducing as an obsessive mother with steel grip on her son. She was unnerving, but it was hard to not be drawn to her the way it was hard to look away from a trainwreck. Her screen time might be limited, but she definitely left the biggest impact.
Through Yudhis and Lala, Posesif successfully raised awareness about an important issue that we had been ignoring for so long. It was an enlightening depiction of dating abuse and other kind of abuses, both truthful and emotionally rousing. Much like an unhealthy relationship, it was an intense ride with unrivaled highs and unsettling lows. Though it was weak at some point, the overall strong narrative and stellar performances more than made up for it. The beautiful shots and witty soundtrack (there’s no way you won’t be humming to Sheila on 7’s Dan on your way out) also helped. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely worth watching.
Director: Edwin. Writer: Gina S. Noer. Released on: 26 October 2017. Casts: Adipati Dolken, Putri Marino, Yayu Unru, Cut Mini.