In Indonesian drama-thriller Photocopier (aka Penyalin Cahaya), Sur is a quiet young woman, trying her best to balance her family life, her academic responsibilities, and her work commitments. As part of these work commitments, she has become involved with a theatre group, where she hopes to progress her career managing the website for an up-and-coming production.
One night she is invited to an after-party, to celebrate the success of the production. Here she receives some welcome news about her career prospects, and she partakes in a few drinks.
The next morning, Sur wakes up feeling worse for wear and completely behind schedule. She has overslept and is late for an important meeting regarding an educational scholarship.
When Sur arrives at the meeting, she is met with hostility from the board, who are keen to address a pressing matter. Having taken a look at Sur’s social media account ahead of the meeting, they have seen photos from the previous night, which show her in a drunken state.
Believing this is unacceptable behaviour, the board refuse to grant Sur a scholarship. To make the situation worse, when Sur returns home, her father disowns her, believing her drunken antics (i.e. returning home at 3am) have brought shame to the family.
After being kicked out of her home, Sur begins to dig deeper into the origin of the photos. The images are selfies, uploaded to her own account, yet she does not know how they got there.
Over the next few days, Sur looks into the finer details of the party, to see if someone spiked her drink and uploaded the photos without her consent. The investigation she sets in motion leads to some worrying revelations, and a darkness to this particular tale.
Directed by Wregas Bhanuteja, Photocopier stars Shenina Cinnamon, Chicco Kurniawan, and Lutesha. The movie is available to stream on Netflix from today, and is a slow-burning picture, which touches upon themes of sexual abuse, the betrayal of trust, and gross misconduct.
The movie has a very powerful message, and one which strikes quite an impact towards the conclusion of the film. However, it takes a while to get to this message, and I’m not convinced that everyone streaming this film will see it through to the end.
The first hour of the picture is quite slow and somewhat disconnecting. And when I say it is disconnecting in the first hour, this is largely to do with different cultural approaches to the material that is being presented.
The hook for the movie is the idea that a young woman would go to a party, not come home until 3am, upload a couple of images to social media, and this be viewed as something terrible. This is clearly something deeply shameful in Indonesian culture, but it doesn’t have the same impact for Western audiences.
As someone who lives in the UK, I can confirm that many young people over here stay out until 3am when attending a party and will also post drunken photos online. It is a regular occurrence, and certainly not something that causes an individual to be ostracised.
Of course, I am not trying to downplay the importance of this situation for other cultures, or in any way make it seem trivial. However, I am trying to make it clear that the differences between one culture’s attitude to this situation and another culture’s attitude, can alter the impact of a story.
Because the first hour of the film spends a great deal of time focusing on the fallout from the party and photos, it felt less engaging for me. I found myself spending a great deal of the first 60 minutes asking the question, is this it? Is this going to be what the whole film is about?
I appreciated that Sur’s predicament was being presented as shocking, and I understood that for some audiences this would be quite engaging, but it wasn’t for me. Nothing about this initial set up was tense or thrilling, and it just played out very pedestrian.
But things began to change when the film moved past the half-way point, when it becomes clear there is more going on in the story. As the narrative progresses, Sur’s journey gets more interesting and more worrying, and a bigger picture begins to form.
By movie’s end, the message that is being delivered is clear and very strong. It’s just a shame that it took so long to get to it.
The film has a very understated approach to its storytelling, and I feel that it is arguably too understated. Again, this does feel that it may be down to the way different cultures approach the material, but I can only say it as I see it.
In terms of the central message, the film tackles the subjects of power and abuse and this does come across clear. The movie also looks at the way in which certain topics go unspoken, and how this is causing continual harm, and once again all of this lands.
There are some very important conversations here, and when they come to the surface the film really hits its mark. It’s final moments in particular are very powerful stuff.
With regards to the cast, everyone delivers, and Shenina Cinnamon is perfect in the role of Sur. She manages to play all the different facets of her character well, and becomes a strong lead for the film.
From a technical standpoint, the movie looks great, and there is a good use of colour and lighting. It ticks all of the boxes here, with no complaints from me.
But this film just doesn’t quite work. That first hour is too much of a slog to get through, and it just doesn’t hit in the way I know it wants to.
I appreciate that for some people this movie will play very well, and I expect different audiences will connect with the material much quicker than I did. But for me, it just took too long, and had I not been committed to finishing the film, for the purpose of completing this review, I may have switched off early and missed that all-important second half.
Do I recommend Photocopier? I guess that all depends on what type of audience I am recommending it to.
If you want something thrilling or thoroughly engaging from start-to-finish, then this isn’t the movie for you. I honestly believe boredom would set in and you would walk away before it really gets going.
However, if you like a slower approach to storytelling, which builds toward something more impactful, then perhaps you should give it a try. There is certainly something here, and it will find its audience.
But for me, this is largely a misfire. In no way a bad movie, just one that doesn’t quite deliver what it sets its sights on.