The whole movie is in the headline in this carefully-observed but low-heat Indonesian melodrama from writer-director Robby Ertanto.
“Ave Maryam” treats us to the quiet routine of a convent whose chief duties seems to be caring for elderly nuns. Sister Maryam (Maudy Kusnaedi) is dutiful, but young, shy and pretty.
Then handsome Father Yosef (Chicco Jerikho) returns to his hometown to direct the convent school (Probably, although we see no classrooms.) orchestra and choir. He doesn’t leer at or seriously come-on to Sister Maryam. But discrete or not, he’s obviously interested in ways he shouldn’t be.
“I’d like to take you out to find rain in the middle of summer,” he suggests (in Indonesian, with English subtitles).
“Father, it’s late” is the only proper response, and that’s the one she gives.
But he is vibrant, full of life and fun, making beautiful sacred music with his charge and dancing with the sisters in the convent after hours. If he makes a point of running into her, here and there, being in his company alone may be cause for confession.
Not enough happens in this brief (Netflix is streaming a shorter version than played film festivals), not terribly dramatic melodrama.
Too many shots are framed from a respectful, chaste distance. The big emotional close-ups are only in the latter part of the film’s third act. That doesn’t let us don’t connect with the characters or embrace their struggle.
The big payoff is a flame that flickers out, nothing with any sizzle and only the barest suggestions of pathos and struggle about it.
It’s as if Ertanto is intrigued by this situation, but as tentative about approaching it as he would be doing anything on Islamic clerical misbehavior in a country that is overwhelmingly Muslim.
The early scenes of the caregiving life routine of these nuns, taking in their own elderly and seeing to their comfort in the retired sisters’ last days are interesting, but only up to a point.
Cast: Maudy Kusnaedi, Chicco Jerikho, Tutie Kirana, Sendy Febrina and Olga Lydia
Credits: Scripted and directed by Robby Ertanto. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:12