Review by Camden Ferrell
Before, Now & Then had its premiere at the 2022 Berlin International Film Festival where it was nominated for the Golden Bear and won the Silver Bear. This movie was adapted from the first chapter of the novel Hais Darga Namaku. Written and directed by Kamila Andini, this is a tender and profound exploration of womanhood and its struggles among the backdrop of 1960’s Indonesia even if it can be bogged down by its slow pace.
Nana is a beautiful woman who is currently the wife of a wealthy plantation owner in Indonesia. However, her heart still remains with the memory of her first husband who was murdered in a civil war a decade prior. She carries on with her daily life while still being haunted and dreaming of her past and the life she had lost. In this time, she confronts the infidelity of her husband by befriending and connecting with his younger mistress Ino. Together, they share their personal secrets and desires, an act that allows them to access emotions and liberation denied by their patriarchal society. This premise is one with great potential for exploring its central themes and lends itself to still timely social commentary.
Andini’s writing is quite strong for the most part. Some of the earlier scenes in the movie do meander a bit, but by the time the crux of the story comes around, her writing is top notch. The way she writes dialogue between its central characters is beautiful while not feeling forced or artificial. There is a scene in the final half of the movie between Nana and Ino that is breathtakingly well-written and helps overcome to movie’s previous shortcomings.
Happy Salma leads the film as Nana while Laura Basuki plays Ino. Both women give fantastic performances that feel appropriate to the story being told while also feeling authentic and original. They capture the nuance in their relationships well and have great chemistry in their scenes together. The supporting cast is quite forgettable in comparison, but also significantly less important in the grand scheme of things.
Andini’s direction is always confident but not always ideal. The first half of this movie is slowly paced, and it takes some time to arrive at the defining moments of the movie. This can lead to early scenes feeling slow, but this issue is corrected by the second half where the pacing gets better, and the movie becomes more captivating. In addition to this, the movie boasts gorgeous cinematography by Batara Goempar and music by Ricky Lionardi. Both of these elements stand out in the film without undermining its story and characters. It’s a delicate balance that Andini handles very well despite some minor hiccups.
Before, Now & Then tells a beautiful and personal story that balances 1960’s Indonesian turmoil with a universal story of womanhood that may still resonate today. It has great lead performances accompanied by solid writing and directing from Andini. This may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I think it at least deserves a chance from everyone.
Before, Now & Then is in theaters August 25.