Dina captures a relationship on the autism spectrum in captivating detail: EW review
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Dina may be a documentary, but it feels more like an indie dramedy. This simple, intimate film follows the fortysomething Dina as she prepares to marry her fiancé, Scott. Both are on the autism spectrum, and filmmakers Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini chronicle the pair’s love story in touching, captivating detail.
When we first meet Dina, she’s waiting in a dentist’s office. After making small talk with the assistant, Dina asks if she’ll hold her hand as the dentist drills into her tooth. The bubbly Philadelphia native is immediately likeable, but as the film unfolds, we learn that she’s dealt with her fair share of past trauma, too. She has what her mother describes as a “smorgasbord” of mental health conditions, and she lost her first husband to cancer and survived a violent attack at the hands of a previous boyfriend. Now, she’s engaged to Scott, a sweet man with Asperger syndrome who’s prone to humming pop songs like Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time.” They’re very much in love, but like any couple, their relationship has its sore spots: Dina is frank about her need for passion, while the less-experienced Scott tends to shy away from intimacy.
At times, the film can verge on feeling voyeuristic or exploitative, especially because Dina is so candid about her insecurities. She shows no hesitation about discussing her sex life with Scott on camera, and she confesses that her guilty pleasure is bare-it-all reality shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians or I Am Cait. But there’s a tenderness and a respect in how Sickles and Santini film Dina’s world — Sickles has known Dina for almost his entire life, and his father was one of her teachers — and the result is a poignant portrait of one woman’s resilience and strength. B+