Review: ‘Lovely Man’

A transvestite sex worker is confronted by the Muslim-raised teenage daughter he abandoned in "Lovely Man."

A transvestite sex worker is confronted by the Muslim-raised teenage daughter he abandoned in “Lovely Man,” an absorbing meller by prolific Indonesian helmer Teddy Soeriaatmadja (“Ruma Maida”). Set over the course of an eventful night, this very well-performed examination of the fundamental importance of parent-child relationships impressively mixes tough talk with tender emotion. World preemed at Busan, pic should notch up plenty of fest mileage ahead of its local release next year.

Arriving in Jakarta armed with only with an address scrawled on a scrap of paper, 19-year-old country girl Cahaya (Raihaanun) finds out the hard way that Saiful (Donny Damara), the father she has not seen in 15 years, has become “Ipuy,” a red-miniskirt-wearing streetwalker in Jakarta’s Taman Lawang transgender red-light district. Angrily dismissing the girl at first, Saiful gradually opens up and reveals harsh truths about his marriage and utter lack of shame about his profession. Sideline details of Cahaya’s pregnancy and a large debt Saiful owes a local heavy (Yayu aw unru) feel a little tacked on, but the central dramatic thread is convincing, compelling and rewarding. Technical package is decent on a low budget.

Lovely Man

Indonesia

Production

A Karuna Pictures production. (International sales: Karuna Pictures, Jakarta.) Produced by Indra Tamorron Musu, Teddy Soeriaatmadja. Executive producer, Millan Rushan. Directed, written by Teddy Soeriaatmadja.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Ical Tanjung; editor, W. Ichwandiardono; music, Bobby Surjadi; art director, Richard Sibuea; costume designer, Ve Verdinand. Reviewed at Busan Film Festival (A Window on Asian Cinema), Oct. 7, 2011. Running time: 72 MIN.

With

Donny Damara, Raihaanun, Yayu aw unru, Ari Syarif, Lani Sonda. (Indonesian dialogue)
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