Patrick Gamble

EIFF 2012: ‘The Mirror Never Lies’ review

★★★★☆

Kamila Andini’s extraordinarily assured debut feature The Mirror Never Lies (2012) is a beautifully lyrical and exquisitely picturesque coming-of-age story regarding the difficulties of struggling with grief and the heart-warming strength which can be harvested from a supportive community. It follows the tale of Pakis (Gita Novalista) was born into the Bajo tribe, a nomadic fishing community who hail from the Wakatobi Island of Indonesia.

Pakis’ father has been missing at sea for some time and whilst everyone (including her own mother) considers him to be dead, she remains unflinchingly optimistic, believing that they will once again be reunited. Around her neck she wears a mirror her father once gave her, hoping that it will one day show her his mysterious whereabouts. This reluctance to accept her father’s fate causes a rift in the fragile relationship between Pakis and her mother; a rift, which becomes exacerbated by the arrival of a young ecological scientist from Jakarta, whose visit to this small island province adds a fresh, yet not necessarily welcomed, perspective.

Profoundly beautiful, this nuanced tale about the hardships that accompany paternal loss is a spellbinding cinematic excursion into the confusion that can often consume an adolescent mind. Whilst Andini presents all of her characters with the same warmth and compassion, it’s the film’s younger cast members who primarily reward the audience’s attention. Expelling an endearing naivety towards the world, The Mirror Never Lies’ juvenile protagonists instill an infectiously playful rhythm to proceedings which, considering their tender age and lack of training, makes for a trio of compelling and touching performances that become the spine of this entrancing film.

From the beach huts that seem to levitate above the shoreline to the rolling countryside that surrounds this quaint fishing community, it’s clear that the Bajo tribe both embrace and rely upon the natural world that surrounds them. This commitment to depicting the rich intricacies of nature allows Andini to simultaneously capture both its serene beauty and necessary cruelty, whilst also allowing the film to develop a subtle frame narrative about preserving our natural resources and the importance of sustainable fishing.

A debut of overwhelming cinematic beauty, Andini’s lyrical debut The Mirror Never Lies is a sweetly observed and remarkably heartfelt piece of independent filmmaking.

The 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place from 20 June-1 July, 2012. For more of our EIFF 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble