Creating a good movie was never an easy task, but maintaining consistency in conceiving such works was an even harder feat. After his two previously acclaimed end-of-the-year movies, Susah Sinyal proved that Ernest Praksa still got it. It didn’t disappoint and if it was a test, then Ernest once again passed with flying colours.
Much like everyone else, Ellen (Adinia Wirasti) had her list of priorities. Thing was, as she juggled being a single mother and efficacious lawyer, she unconsciously let her relationship with her daughter Kiara (Aurora Ribero) slid down the list. Before she knew it, a rift existed between her and Kiara. And that rift became even deeper when Oma Agatha(Niniek L. Karim), Ellen’s mother whom Kiara loved very dearly, passed away.
Through a trip to Sumba, Ellen attempted to win back Kiara’s trust and, for once, prioritized Kiara over her high profile case.
In my review for Cek Toko Sebelah, I wrote that Ernest Prakasa was a storyteller who managed to ensnare his audience and coaxed emotions without needless hogwash. Susah Sinyal was another testament to his capability and growth. Because here, he didn’t just write about himself like in Ngenest, or penned a scenario he could’ve found himself in based on the culture and life he grew up in. This was a story about a daughter and a mother, two positions he obviously never been in. And yet, to my pleasant surprise, he and Meira collaborated for a story that offered sensitivity and no judgment. This wasn’t a cautionary tale about how a mother neglected her daughter because of her career, or a cynical take on the younger generation and their fixation on social media. Rather, it was merely a slice of life about a woman and her teenage daughter, both of whom were trying their best to navigate their situation.
What I found admirable, and was one of the things I like the most about Susah Sinyal, was the way Ernest graciously stepped back. He understood that this wasn’t his story to tell, and he ceded the spotlight to those who could deliver his message. Susah Sinyal’s single-minded focus on its two titular characters rather than spinning unnecessary sub-plots paid off handsomely thanks to Adinia Wirasti and Aurora Ribero’s performance.
By now, Adinia Wirasti’s acting prowess should’ve been public knowledge. While Ellen was not her best performance to date (my personal favourite was still Dinda from Kapan Kawin?), it still was a detailed character study and very humane portrayal. She brought a level of realism that made Ellen relatable and understandable, sympathetic but still exasperating at times. Because she’s only human, and she was bound to make mistakes. And rather than those big emotional moments, it was the small scenes that really caught my eyes. When Ellen’s wall cracked and she accidentally let her heart out, Adinia Wirasti truly shone. Because more than just a story about the reconciliation between a mother and her daughter, this was a story about Ellen and her growth as a character. How she rediscovered her own ability to trust and learned not to always see the worst in everything. How she rearranged her priorities, and how she became whole again.
A little part of me scoffed at her last dialogue exchange with Ernest, but that was just my personal standpoint. It honestly didn’t hurt the movie and was a well-intended message, I just disagree with it and is currently a little more bitter than I should have been at the beginning of the year.
Aurora Ribero, of course, was far from perfect and her performance fluctuated depending on her scenes. But she was good in certain moments, and she held her ground against Adinia Wirasti. Certain line delivery was cringe-inducing, but none was off-putting. Niniek L. Karim was simply captivating and lovely as Oma Agatha, the kind of person one couldn’t help but adore and a grandmother everyone wished they had. Dayu Wijanto once again became the scene stealer and much appreciated comic relief thanks to her on-point line delivery, as with Chew Kin Wah whose facial expression alone was enough to make me laugh. Asri Welas came close, though Tante Maya teetered far too close to obnoxious to my liking. Refal Hady’s Abe was definitely two dimensional, but he was good enough
(and pretty enough) to make it work. Ernest Prakasa himself was pleasant as Iwan, and as always, he was at his best during comedic scenes.
Another thing that I really appreciated from this movie was how clever the title was. Susah Sinyal didn’t just refer to Ellen and Kiara’s struggle to get a good internet connection in Sumba (which aptly described the kind of situation that normally called for such phrase). It also referred to their difficulties in connecting with each other, an often arduous endeavour a lot of people could relate to. Because much like trying to find that one sweet wifi spot, mending bridges to lessen the distance between you and your mom (or dad, actually) required countless attempts until your frequencies matched. And even then, you’d still have to work to make sure the connection didn’t get cut off and you were forced to start over from scratch.
As per usual, Ernest Prakasa told the story of a non-conventional family we rarely saw in the media through Susah Sinyal. Being the storyteller that he was, though, he presented a tale that not only favourably represented those it portrayed but also remained relatable to everyone else. With an excellent blend of simplicity, subtlety, and honesty, it was yet another beautiful work from Ernest Prakasa that showcased his forte: slice of life and family stories in a feel good movie. Truly, I couldn’t wait to see what he had in store for his next release.
Director: Ernest Prakasa. Writer: Ernest Prakasa, Meira Anastasia. Released on: 21 December 2017. Casts: Adinia Wirasti, Aurora Ribero, Niniek L. Karim, Ernest Prakasa, Valerie Thomas, Refal Hady.