by Rachel Willis
Charming is the first word that comes to mind while watching the Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles documentary, Dina.
From the first moment, the audience is given an unfiltered look into Dina’s world. At a dentist appointment, she reveals her discomfort to the hygienist who offers to hold her hand while the dentist drills. It seems an odd moment to begin this intimate look at a woman’s life, but as the film unfolds, it’s a piece that fits into the larger puzzle that is Dina.
After a few more scenes in which we’re privy to Dina’s day-to-day routines, her fiancé, Scott, is introduced. In most ways, Scott and Dina are just like any other couple preparing for and anticipating their wedding day: there’s excitement, some trepidation, and a few hurdles to work through if they’re going to succeed in the long run.
But Scott has Asperger Syndrome and Dina has “a smörgåsbord” of mental disabilities (per her mother). Still, Santini and Sickles show us that Dina and Scott are a couple like any other.
At times, as the film navigates the sexual side of the couple’s relationship, it tends toward voyeurism. As they page through a copy of “The Joy of Sex” and Dina relays her sexual frustrations, the film skirts the line.
But the directors approach the subject with sympathy and compassion. The openness Dina and Scott have reveals the comfort between subject and documentarians. Never does the film feel exploitative or mocking.
It’s easy to like Scott and Dina and the more time spent with them only deepens the affection.
It’s a testament to the filmmakers, who make the audience feel like they’re spending time with old friends. It’s also a testament to Dina herself. Her past is one of hardship. She’s a widow and a survivor of a terrible ordeal at the hands of a boyfriend. But she is full of optimism and warmth.
Scott and Dina are exceedingly polite to each other, but the warmth behind their words reveals their love. In fact, the world would probably be a lot better if we all treated our friends, family and spouses the way Dina and Scott treat each other. While they have their problems, as every couple does, their polite natures, their openness, offers hope that their marriage will stand the test of time.
As a love story, Dina is exactly what the audience wants it to be.