Emma’ (Athirah) [Indonesian Movie Review]

Director: Riri Riza

Scriptwriter: Salman Aristo, Riri Riza

Genre: Dark, Drama

Runtime: 1 hour 13 minutes

“Athirah” takes the sequence of life of a mother who has to struggle for her family after finding out about the man she marrying takes another woman as his second wife.

Why It’s Worth Watching

Aside from the fact that the movie itself is adapted from the real story of the 10th and 12th Indonesian vice president’s mother, the movie set its charm by the casts’ embodiment of their characters, especially Cut Mini Theo, playing the strong mother who has been betrayed by her husband and Christoffer Nelwan who plays the son who has to look after his mother and sisters while his life and respect to his father are slowly affected.

Unshaken Patience Upon Unbearable Turmoil

The story opens with passengers hide inside a truck container, avoiding the authorities that prohibit any bypasser entering the area they intend to go. A couple is seen among them while restlessly waiting for their driver to slip off the officers’ radar. Once they manage to arrive at their destination, the couple starts preparing their grocery store. Thus, years later they live in prosperity with one healthy older son and two beautiful sisters.

The clang of spoons hit plates is heard on the table filled with a feast. This Bugis ethnic family can be seen enjoying their meal, raising smiles while passing foods. Alas, this warmful scenery doesn’t last long as the father often goes off the island for business. Later they know the father doesn’t just deal with business, he’s having an affair. The news sure shocks the entire family and the mother, Athirah (Cut Mini Theo), has to remain calm in front of her children and goes along as it doesn’t actually happen.

Athirah is the second movie Theo works with the director Riri Riza and the producer Mira Lesmana after their collaboration in Laskar Pelangi. According to her interview with Beritagar.id, Theo admitted that Athirah is more difficult to play than her previous role as a caring, motherlike teacher Bu Muslimah, since the character Athirah strongly focuses on emotion rather than dialogues.

Truly Athirah‘s slow storytelling with most of the scenes heavily rotates around its characters’ emotion pays the great task for not Theo herself, but the rest of the casts who play the members of the family. And the second spotlight, of course, falls upon Athirah’s first child Ucu, aka Jusuf Kalla (Christoffer Nelwan). Although Athirah bears the most burden among all, Ucu also has to reconcile between his utmost honor for his father and his father’s shameful act that taints his adolescent life. Nelwan’s acting as a solicitous older brother is just as great as Theo. Ucu’s development grows apparent at the time her mother is at her grieve. Sometimes at a point like this, you question who supports who.

Athirah’s husband, Puang Ajji (Arman Dewarti), despite having minor appearances in the movie, his presence within the family affirms his significant impact throughout the household. He is the man that fathoms the responsibility of feeding his family and his workers, as well as raising his children and waking them for every subuh prayer. He is a respected man, both in his neighborhood and in his family. Has anyone blamed him? No one has. Having more wives doesn’t immediately degrade the subjects if practiced in the Muslim majority country, though some would see in disdain.

In spite of that all, after knowing her husband’s betrayal (even though he insists he would stay), Athirah, who has to deal with the heartbreak, is inherited a Bugis sarong from her mother and somehow finds her way to lessen the pain through it.

All you can conclude from Athirah is it does not confront the issue directly nor tells its incapability to do so. Instead, it tries to get by with the problem, to not let hatred consumes, to be unrelenting even at the worst time.

Emma' (Athirah) image movie review


“Nanti kau jadi orang besar, jadi gubernur.”

“One day you will be an important man, a governor.”


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A family drama that filled with betrayal and the art of forgiving and getting by.

Follow This Blog

Find the latest update directly from your inbox.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s