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Dina (Sundance London 2017 Review)

Directed by Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles, Dina is a documentary that offers an intimate look at the relationship between two people on the autism spectrum. It’s well constructed and doesn’t patronize its characters or its audience. However, how worthwhile an experience it is as a movie depends on how invested you become in the couple’s story.

Dina Buno is close to 50 and despite having lost a husband to cancer and subsequently being attacked with a knife by a violent boyfriend, is not in the least discouraged from pursuing new relationships. At the beginning of the movie, she and Scott Levin have already decided to get married. Scott has Asperger syndrome and Dina herself is struggling with mental disability, which leads to complications in their relationship.

The much more sexually experienced Dina wants Scott to be more physically intimate and attentive but often struggles to communicate her frustrations directly. In one of the most memorable scenes of the movie, she vents about sexual needs to friends, while Scott is clearly within earshot. Scott himself, while obviously very much in love with Dina, is terrified of the thought of sex.

Santini and Sickles do a great job of communicating the struggles that the two go through without treating them as if they’re different. Their mental disabilities don’t define them or their relationship but are merely part of the many challenges they must face individually and as a couple. The film is intimate without being obtrusive, giving the subjects of the documentary their space but showing enough of their private life to help the audience understand them better.

Your enjoyment of the movie depends almost entirely on your personal opinion of the couple. You might find them endearing and sweet or obnoxious and boring. Dina isn’t particularly emotionally manipulative, nor does it seem very interested in securing your investment. It simply presents two people at a critical juncture in their lives and lets the viewer decide for themselves if it’s a story they’d be interested in following all the way through.

As such, it’s difficult to assign the movie any kind of score without feeling as if you’re judging Dina and Scott as people – at least in this reviewer’s mind, which is why there won’t be a score like in a traditional review. If you’re curious or find the idea behind Dina intriguing, it’s worth checking out, as it just might end up being a very memorable and worthwhile experience.

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