Yuni (Arawinda Kirana) is about to graduate from high school. She’s at the top of her class and is eager to get a scholarship to attend college next semester. However, she comes from a traditional background, in which deep-rooted superstition and religion hold a lot of sway for her family and school. In the small Indonesian town she’s from, a favourable marriage is held as the best thing for a young woman. And when the teenager is approached with a marriage proposal, she’s forced to decide which path to pursue.
It’s director Kamila Andini’s ability to gracefully navigate between the at times cruel world of teenage marriage and Yuni’s pursuit of youth and freedom that makes Yuni a captivating coming-of-age affair. Andini weaves both halves of the teenager’s narrative together with elegance and beauty. While the mention of mandatory virginity tests at her school and her classmates casually gossiping about a fellow classmate being raped are a solemn reminders of the bleak reality young woman face, shots of her riding through the night streets with a cute boy or walking alongside him in the park on a sunny day act as hopeful promises that her life could be okay after all.
Praise likewise must go to Kirana for what is a phenomenal performance. Subdued yet expressive, the actor keeps the titular youngster grounded and relatable, which goes a long way in shaping the course of her increasingly turbulent journey.
Given the tremendous skill and tact Andini shows in crafting and conveying this complex tale of youth and tradition, it comes as a disappointment that the finale resorts to over-the-top melodrama. The overarching message made is a powerful one – and the cinematography of the final shot is poetic in its simplicity – but the comically sappy tone of these closing moments drastically undermines what would otherwise have been a striking conclusion to a beautiful and tender coming-of-age tale.
Yuni does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Glasgow Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Glasgow Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Yuni here: