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Movie review: Unique documentary 'Dina' follows an autistic couple preparing for marriage
"Dina" follows the romantic relationship between two autistic adults who live in Pennsylvania. It is currently screening at the Broadway in Salt Lake City. - photo by Josh Terry
"DINA" 3 stars Dina Buno, Scott Levin; unrated; Broadway

Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles unique documentary Dina tells the story of Dina Buno, a 49-year-old widow preparing for her second marriage. Dina is autistic and suffers from a smorgasbord her mothers term of health issues. Her tragic romantic past has made her new relationship that much more stressful, yet she remains determined to forge ahead into her new life.

Her fiance, Scott Levin, is also autistic and works as a greeter at a local Walmart. Hes never lived away from his parents, and one of Dinas early stages sees him move out of their townhouse into Dinas humble apartment.

Dinas surface narrative follows Dina and Scott as they adjust to their new life together and prepare for their upcoming nuptials. We watch them go to the movies, take the bus together and go about their morning and evening routines. Most of the focus is on Dina as she goes about her days visiting family and friends and running various errands in preparation for the wedding (Dina is on disability and doesnt work). We also see Scott getting up early for his job and watch him arrange produce at the Walmart garden center.

As the marriage approaches, various sequences including a key stretch during a quick overnight trip to Ocean Beach, New Jersey (Scotts first time seeing the ocean) gradually reveal the tension that underlies the couple's plans: Scott is resisting sexual intimacy from Dina, who is nine years removed from the death of her first husband and still recovering from a violent episode that took place in a subsequent relationship.

This tension drives much of the rest of the film, as the progress to and through the wedding is peppered with Dinas vocal frustrations. For example, in one scene she complains to her married friends about Scotts lack of affection during a double date at a miniature golfing park while Scott lingers awkwardly behind her.

There is a sweetness and a tenderness to many scenes that celebrates the innocence of the films autistic subjects, but at times Dina feels almost too intimate. Dina herself is an open book, more than happy to voice her opinions, but those around her including her fiance dont always seem so unabashed (during Dinas bachelorette party, a male stripper dances against one of her reluctant married friends in one of the films more cringe-worthy moments).

In the age of reality television and self-aggrandizing social media, the notion of having a camera follow your every move seems completely routine, if not exactly natural even as you lounge on your honeymoon with your new husband in a private 10-foot-tall bathtub shaped like a cocktail glass. But Dina has a way of making this transparency feel especially raw.

Dina is shot in washed-out, desaturated tones, frequently in pastels, which seem to reflect the conditions of the couple's humble Pennsylvania circumstances. The film is very quiet and matter-of-fact and barely feels like a documentary. There are no breakaway interviews, no voiceovers, no contextual titles, nothing to suggest what you are seeing isnt a regular, staged film performed by actors. Youre not even clear about Dina and Scotts autism or Dinas romantic past until well into the film.

Overall, Dina is very well executed, though some audiences may find it a little too intimate for their own tastes. It is a compelling portrait of a determined woman, and the more we learn about her past, the more determined we realize she is.

Dina is not rated, but would likely draw a PG-13 for some sexual content; running time: 103 minutes.
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