In the midst of the homogeneous stream of today’s Indonesian cinema, Jermal (released March 12) challenges the flow. A thoughtful portrayal of the relationship between a father and a son, it explores a classic theme given a unique twist by its setting: an isolated fishing platform, or jermal, in the middle of the Malacca Straits off North Sumatra.
The central character is Jaya, a 12-year-old schoolboy whose orderly life is dramatically disrupted when, after his mother’s death, he is sent to the jermal to be with his father Johar. Johar, a taciturn and solitary figure, is an escapee from the mainland with a past he is determined to reject. Snubbed by his father, Jaya is left to fend for himself in a tough new environment that transforms him from a naïve schoolboy into a hardened survivor.