Movie Review: In The Absence of The Sun

It’s easy to lose yourself in the city, even one that calls itself home. Constantly bright, perpetually bustling and pressing onward for change, it’s almost inevitable for every urbanite to feel trapped in this continuous rat race, breathless as they gape at the perpetual cycle of heads constantly nipping at tails, while the future remains tauntingly elusive.

In the Absence of the Sun (originally titled, “Selamat Pagi, Malam” or Good Morning, Night), directed by Jakarta’s Lucky Kuswandi, had the honor of closing the 25th Singapore International Film Festival on Dec 14.


The film unfolds with the poignant, interweaving stories of 3 women who navigate their ways through the vice-like grip of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital megacity.


Gia (Adinia Wirasti) is attempting to cope with the reverse culture shock of returning home from years abroad in New York to a vastly different Jakarta. While unpacking, she chances upon her ex-lover Naomi’s (Marissa Anita) phone number written on the back of an air ticket. Attempting to seek solace in familiarity, both get back in touch only for Gia to realize that the Naomi she once knew has since succumbed to the societal plague of upper class materialism, filled with martinis, selfie sticks and Christian Louboutins.


Indri (Ina Paggabean) is an affable gym-towel girl who harbors the naïve fantasy of meeting her Mr Right so she can advance the social ladder. On her 25th birthday, she flees a restaurant after a blind date goes awry. Chancing upon a charismatic waiter, Faisal (Trisa Triandesa) after hours, they end up exploring the city together.


Recently widowed Ci Surya (Dayu Wijanto) discovers her deceased husband’s adultery with Sofia (Dira Sugandi), a bar singer and prostitute. Spurred by an impulsive fit of despair, she seeks Sofia out at her hotel bar. Instead of tearful self-pity, Ci Surya’s stoic silence during the majority of the film mirrors the repression of her anguish and struggles.

Director Kuswandi takes a distant yet seemingly close and intimate approach when braiding the disparate storylines together. The women encounter one another, if only briefly, but their encounters are marred by ignorance. No acknowledgement occurs – not even at the story’s peak when all 3 check into the seedy, Murakami-esque Lone Star Hotel, each seeking respite from reality while the sun remains hidden in slumber.


“The sun represents positivity and enlightenment, though I believe there’s a duality occurring when these characters manage to access their true selves in the absence of the sun,” explained Kuswandi when asked of the significance behind the film’s long night. “There’s a moment of change that everyone has to experience, where you must lose yourself to find yourself.”


The film is loaded with meaning – love, escape, morality, loss, globalization, tradition and many more issues are addressed. Stylistically, the film is occasionally blemished when a loaded shot grips the viewer, only to be abruptly transitioned with little or no apparent reason. To emphasize comedy, the cinematic cliché of slapstick is effectively employed, thankfully more charming than cringe-worthy.

Marrying scarily reflective and charming characters with a fearless yet subtly shot narrative of Jakarta, In the Absence of the Sun lingers as a film that triumphs in its humility, underlined by the fact that it was shot in only 11 days.


Kuswandi joked at how the film would have never been achieved fruition, its script collecting dust in his closet if not for the determination of his cast and crew. Judging from the resounding applause at the end, the audience were beyond thankful for their tenacity.

Plaudits aside, a timeless truth surfaces as the credits rolled – too often, the places that we try to leave the fastest are those we will inevitably meander back to.

Rating: 4/5 


Release date: Dec 14 (Singapore only)

Runtime: 94 minutes

Language: English and Bahasa Indonesia

Censorship Rating: M18

Genre: Arthouse

Director: Lucky Kuswandi

Main actors: Adinia Wirasti, Ina Panggabean, Dayu Wijanto

Photos courtesy of Soda Machine Films and the Singapore International Film Festival