DINA, doc­u­men­tary, not rated, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts,

Pasatiempo - - MOVING IMAGES - Dina

In its open­ing min­utes, flirts with bor­ing you out of your seat be­fore the (fairly drawn out) open­ing cred­its are done. But stick around. Bit by bit, as this doc­u­men­tary re­veals the na­ture of its story and the char­ac­ters of its pro­tag­o­nists, it pulls you in.

It’s the love story of two mid­dle-aged peo­ple with de­vel­op­men­tal is­sues. Dina Buno is some­where in her late for­ties, with bor­der­line Asperger’s and a touch of autism, and, as her mother re­marks, a “smor­gas­bord” of re­lated prob­lems. She’s also got a his­tory strewn with trauma, in­clud­ing an early wid­ow­hood and a ter­ri­ble in­ci­dent of vi­o­lence. Very lit­tle of this is baldly spelled out; it’s teased along with dropped clues un­til the big re­veals.

But Dina’s life has taken an up­ward turn with her en­gage­ment to Scott Levin, a good-na­tured fel­low prob­a­bly a few years her ju­nior who works at Wal-Mart. Scott has his own sim­i­lar cocktail of men­tal chal­lenges. Early in the film, he moves in with Dina and takes her home to meet his folks. He’s never lived away from home. She’s had boyfriends since her hus­band died, but noth­ing per­ma­nent. This is a big step for both of them, as it would be for any­one, and a ma­jor is­sue soon rears its head. Dina would like some sex­ual pas­sion to help ful­fill their re­la­tion­ship. Scott’s autism has the ef­fect of mak­ing him un­com­fort­able with in­ti­macy. He’s fine with a hug and a peck on the lips and an “I love you,” but there’s no im­pulse to take it fur­ther.

They are both in­tel­li­gent and ap­peal­ing, and both are keenly aware of their cir­cum­stances and lim­i­ta­tions. When Dina ex­presses her frus­tra­tions, Scott nods sym­pa­thet­i­cally and says, “I know, you’re right, I’ll try to do better.”

The film­mak­ers’ con­nec­tion to this cou­ple comes through co-di­rec­tor Dan Sick­les, who has known Dina all his life. That close­ness pro­vides an un­usual ac­cess, as the cam­era finds its way into their bedroom and into the hon­ey­moon suite. It’s al­most too in­tru­sive, and there are times when we may wish they hadn’t brought us along. And there are a few scenes, in­clud­ing one in which she makes him a present of a sex man­ual, that smack of be­ing staged, or per­haps recre­ated from in­ci­dents that re­ally hap­pened.

This Sun­dance grand jury prize-win­ning love story is ul­ti­mately af­fect­ing and il­lu­mi­nat­ing, and it de­liv­ers pow­er­ful mo­ments, topped by a mes­mer­iz­ing scene in which a shock­ing bit of his­tory is re­vealed against the back­drop of the film’s most ar­rest­ing vis­ual. There’s also plenty of hu­mor. Dina and Scott have their prob­lems, but they prob­a­bly have as good a chance at find­ing so­lu­tions as most peo­ple do. — Jonathan Richards

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