Dear David (2023)

Dear David (2023)

An earnest attempt on teenage sexuality that sadly misses the mark

6.0

Movie

Indonesia
English, Indonesian
Comedy, Drama, Romance
2023
LUCKY KUSWANDI
Agnes Naomi, Caitlin North Lewis, Chanceline Ebel
118 min

TLDR

Fanfic is best for fictional characters, and this is why!

What it's about

After the viral leak of the explicit fanfic she wrote about her crush David, high school president Laras hopes no one finds out she wrote it, while the school suspects her former best friend Dilla.

The take

While the film attempts to depict teenage sexuality, Dear David misses the mark due to certain plot points. At the heart of the film, Dear David is all about expression – that teenagers actively seek for ways to explore their sexuality like fanfiction, photos, and clothing. In taking on this premise, the hope for these kids would be to be able to to express these feelings through safe and constructive spaces. But because the film only presents Laras’ work as porn without plot, her relationship with David doesn’t feel like it stems from genuine affection. David isn’t characterized as popular enough for everyone to have a good concept of him, to have a positive canon narrative about him, and so, as Laras’ work spreads, it’s only his objectified self people have in mind. Her creative work comes across as some form of sexual harassment, rather than innocent expression.

What stands out

Dear David might not hit the mark, but there are moments here that understand how teenage girls explore their sexuality. The film slips in and out of Laras’ dreamscapes, taking a nod from Sex Education’s Lily, as the cast portrays Laras’ weird and strange neon-lit alien fic. A later scene halfway through the film makes it clear that her fantasies stem from a desire for a better future, where she can express herself. However, the film also accurately portrays how there's a lack of safe spaces for girls to explore their sexuality. When the fanfic spreads, the writer is immediately mocked by both students and parents, even if other girls resonate with the work. The school administration doesn't help, as they tighten other modes of expression through phone confiscation and stricter school dress codes. Dear David might not get things right with the plot, but it's moments like these that makes the film feel like an earnest attempt in discussing teenage sexuality.

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