For a movie set in the fast-paced city of Jakarta that revolves around coffee, Filosofi Kopi is anything but jitter-inducing. The film centres on Jod and Ben (played respectively by Rio Dewanto and Chicco Jerikho), a pair of childhood friends who must face the prospect of losing their debt-laden coffee shop. Ben, a prodigious but eccentric barista must create the house brew to end all house brews to save Filosofi Kopi, and in the process, is forced to confront the traumas of his childhood.
Rio Dewanto shines in his role as Jod, whose pragmatism and anxious efforts to try and keep Filosofi Kopi afloat drove this film from beginning to end. Dewanto also flexes his comic muscles in Filosofi Kopi to great effect. He often delivers in Jod’s exasperation at Ben’s stubborness, cursing at him in cheeky, biting tones with impeccable timing in a manner that both uplifted the film, and breathed a warmth into an otherwise lukewarm relationship between Ben and Jod.
The relationships forged in Filosofi Kopi as a whole were less than convincing, with Jod, Ben and Jod’s love interest, El (played by Julie Estelle) barely sparking with one another. Between Jod and El, there was no ‘will they, won’t they’ lustre on their relationship, which fit neither the label of ‘friends’ or ‘love interests’. The stifled relationships between all three leads can be largely put down to the amateurish directing. All three characters were to varying extents, locked into an inner turmoil over their pasts, one that the audience was largely denied access to. Ben’s past was shown to the audience in long flashback sequences. These sequences were haphazardly chopped and thrown together. Supposedly, the director of this film, Angga Dwimas Sasongko did so to create a sense of fragmentation and brokenness that painful memories convey, but though these sequences were fragmented in form, they were unsatisfying in effect.
While Sasongko’s directing had many misses – one of which included a nausea-inducing shaky lens that occurred throughout the movie – the way in which he allows Filosofi Kopi connect to its viewer is not one of them. Texturally, the movie is vibrant with the sights and sounds of Indonesia. From the big picture landscapes of plantations to the close up of Jod getting his face shaved at the barber’s, Sasongko covers it all. As a human rights activist, his own emotionally driven concerns about the agrarian conflict currently happening in Indonesia informed the film’s own conflicts and contexts in a honest and genuine way. Sasongko invites his audience to see past their blinkered realities; for Indonesians, to look past the bustling life of Jakarta; for the rest of the world, to see Indonesia as a place much more than a country to which you book a flight to when you’ve had one too many glasses of wine. What this film lacks in skill, it makes up for with heart.
Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Filosofi Kopi screened at the Indonesian Film Festival 2016 at ACMI in Melbourne.