Have you heard of Wattpad? It is like a site for amateur writers, it allows users to share their written stories, novels, and particularly ‘Fanfics’ publicly. Wattpad is incredibly popular and has become a getaway for various amateur writers to exercise their writing muscles. These fanfics however sometimes tend to get sexual in nature. As someone who wrote Wattpad back in the day, I wouldn’t ever want people to know I wrote the things I wrote. That is essentially the premise for Dear David, wherein Laras, a talented student, known for being smart and meritorious, has to deal with her risque fantasy blog about her school crush getting leaked.
It aims to be a coming-of-age drama-type film and is from Indonesia. When I saw the trailer of the film, I reckoned it would be a drama with the hopes of creating a John Hughes-esque film but tonally more somber and quiet. And it is quite a bit like that but much more contained as a somber film with little moments of warmth sprinkled in.
The film's protagonist is Laras, a diligent student who is the head of the student body and is generally considered a teacher's pet. Played by Shenina Cinnamon, Laras has a secret crush on David, a fellow student at her high school who also goes to her church. Laras has sexual fantasies about David which she writes down in her Wattpad-type blog. There is another central character to the plot Dilla, looked down upon by the general populace of the school because she has a social media which is apparently too 'pornographic' (according to the principal of the school at least). Essentially David likes Dilla and Dilla hates everyone who breathes. Here we have a minor crush triangle.
The plot thickens when these highly descriptive series of sexual fantasy blogs get leaked in the school and EVERYBODY gets a good read. The blog spreads like wildfire and causes a lot of embarrassment for everyone involved. David is harassed, Laras feels incredibly guilty and the school's heads feel that all of this will cause harm to the school's reputation. The school's head assumes that Dilla is responsible for all this and continues to accuse her of writing it all. What happens after when David finds out that Laras has written everything is what the film is all about and you must watch it to get the rest of the plot.
To be quite honest, I didn't expect the film to be as pleasant as it turned out. The film has quite a bit of heart despite the teen drama cliches it has in the script. It is refreshing because it manages to still sell you the character's emotions and lets you empathize with each one of them. Though the characters are essentially archetypes, as the film progresses they develop more personality and feel like real people. I continued to root for Laras' character throughout the film, the actor who plays her puts on a decent performance. The acting overall is pretty good, with character motivations and relationships with each other all actually carrying weight. The film is also shot in an interesting way, with different motions, having the camera zoom in and pan during different scenes with different importance makes it a more interestingly shot film.
There is surprisingly a lot in common between Indonesian and Indian culture is something I understood throughout the duration of this film, particularly with respect to the importance given to communities like churches, privacy policies in schools, and overall perception of pleasure and sexual desire.
The climax of the film is pleasing and the character chemistry between the 3 leads is also quite good. I personally enjoyed it quite a bit even though it doesn't present anything technically unique or new. I feel if you're someone who is exhausted with Netflix pushing out teen dramas that don't feel like they have heart, then this movie is definitely for you. It tugged at my heartstrings in certain sequences and actually reminded me of the cliche high school days we've all had.
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