Eliana is beautiful. Eliana is headstrong. And Eliana is in trouble. Yet most of all, Eliana is loved. When we first see her, Eliana is leading a marginal existence, surrounded by unsavoury characters, unable to hold down a job, pay rent, or locate her only friend. She appears utterly alone in the mean streets of Jakarta. But her feisty attitude and smarts show her to be made of strong stuff, and we soon find out where this strength comes from when we meet her estranged mother, Bunda, who has come to the chaos of city life to return her daughter to their beautiful home in the countryside. We learn that Eliana ran away from home to escape an arranged marriage, but as we follow the two over the course of a crazy night navigating the huge city, it becomes apparent that Eliana has also been fleeing her mother’s stifling care. While touching on themes of mother-daughter relationships, the lure of the big city and leav- ing the nest, the film also gives us a highly specific insider’s view of Jakarta reminiscent of Wong Kar-wai’s Hong Kong in Chungking Express. In the end, a mother’s love for her daughter trumps all, and the heartbreaking final scene between the two women will resonate with anyone who has chosen the difficult path over the easy because it is the right one.
In his gritty and sensitive film about two fierce yet vulnerable women, director Riri Riza elicits moving and incredibly nuanced performances from both newcomer Rachel Maryam Sayidina in the title role and veteran Jajang C Noer as her mother. Shot in 14 days with one hand-held digital camera, the film heralds the “i-sinema” movement based on a manifesto signed by 13 Indonesian filmmakers seeking to serve an Indonesian audience hungry for Indonesian films, and finding new ways of making feature films that provide filmmakers with the independence to work freely.
Riri Riza’s directing credits include Petualangan Sherina (Sherina’s Adventure) (2000) and Kuldesak (1999). He is also a well-known producer and was behind the hit Indonesian teen film Ada Apa Dengan Cinta? (What’s With Love?) (2002).