Take this advice from a Netflix-enthusiast: If you feel like watching a relatable, warm, and wholesome movie without the cringe-worthy scenes, Ali and Ratu Ratu Queens is the perfect pick for you.
This gorgeously shot movie portrays the journey of Ali, starring Iqbaal Ramadhan, to find his estranged mother, Mia or Marissa Anita, in real life, who left him and his father in hopes of becoming a successful jazz singer in New York. Upon his arrival, Ali was taken under the wings of four Indonesian aunties, who would, later on, help him realize the true meaning of family. Although this movie brings up so many interesting aspects, such as the culture of Indonesian immigrants, family dynamics, and warm ‘feel-good’ moments, what caught my attention and also seemed to infuriate a lot of people was Mia and her quite controversial choices.
In this movie, Mia is depicted as the typical modern-day woman. Expressive, determined, ambitious, albeit naive. She knows what she wants and she is willing to go to great lengths to chase the American dream.
Mia is contrasted with Ali’s father, who came from an extreme opposite background, where the stereotypical Asian family values are still held dearly. His extended family is described to be quite religious and adheres to specific gender roles, where women are expected to care for their children and stay home. The status quo is “Never mind your happiness, do your duty.”
At first, I simply could not bring myself to sympathize with Mia. Well, how could I? She left her son for her somewhat unrealistic goal. Why now? Why did she have to pursue her dream when she already started her own family? It angered me that she decided to give up on her dreams so easily after she realized the difficulties and obstacles she had to face. Then, she went on to meet a new man, have a new family and new children, leaving everything behind as if her son was disposable.
But then, the conflict scene between Mia and Ali came up. Their emotions were so raw, displayed bare for us to see. Mia acknowledged her failure as a mother, but seemed to not regret her choices, despite the fact that her son was the collateral damage. All those years ago, she just had to leave. She felt trapped. She wasn’t happy. Not going to lie, it made me tear up. I could finally put myself in Mia’s shoes and begin to understand the things she did.
However, the movie was wrapped up with a happy but quite anticlimactic ending. Ali and Mia never reconciled. All that was left was unachieved dreams and neglected duties. So what is the answer to this duties or dreams dilemma?
After hours of contemplation, I figured that Ali and his acceptance might just be the answer all along. Ali has always dreamt about reuniting with his mother. On the other hand, he also has duties to fulfill- in his case, attending university- to become independent after his father’s death. At first, he did go against his family’s wishes to fly to New York to search for his mother. But along his journey, we could see that he carries with him a sense of responsibility towards his duties. He enrolled himself in a university and even attempted to apply for a scholarship. Even though he did not get to reunite with his mother, he knew how to accept his unideal circumstances and create something meaningful out of them.
When talking about dreams and duties, people always make it seem like we have to pick one or the other. Granted, pursuing both would be difficult. But don’t all great things require commitment and sacrifice? Maybe dreams or duties are not choices that we have to make after all.
Words by: Giannina Tan