Review: ‘Dina’, A Character Study Of Life And Love

Dina is not your average documentary – on the surface it is a story following a couple going through the typical ordeals when planning a wedding. Below that is a glimpse at the difficulties seen within a relationship and how to try and overcome them. The fact that Dina Buno and her fiancé Scott Levin are both on the autism spectrum is certainly an element to the film, but Dina is so much more than that. Directors Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles employ an interesting film style that blends fictional narrative with documentary. This causes Dina to approach the likes of a romantic comedy and drama as much as a documentary. In some ways this works, in others it leaves the film seemingly directionless – yes entertaining, but it doesn’t necessarily always have a clear path forward.

Dina and Scott both live in the Philadelphia suburbs. Dina is your typical middle aged woman. She likes manicures, watching the Kardashians (which she refers to as her “guilty pleasure”), and spending time with her mother. She is very friendly and enjoys communicating with people, constantly diving deep into conversations about aspects of her life and relationship. Scott is also an incredibly sociable and caring middle aged man. He has a great passion for music and this is a recurring theme throughout the film. His love for music is no more apparent than in the scene where Dina is incredibly upset about her perceived lack of affection from Scott – his response is to find the perfect song that he knows will make her feel better. Later on, we see Scott sharing his headphones with a stranger on a bus, just so the man can experience the music that Scott is enjoying at that moment. 

As the film progresses, Dina’s past is brought up numerous times. She has experienced some horrors, one of them being a stabbing. By the end of the film, the audience is exposed to chilling audio of the 911 call after the stabbing. It is a moving scene, and one that I wish would have been expanded more upon during the film. We get to experience many events with Scott and Dina – from him moving in with Dina, Dina taking Scott to Ocean City, New Jersey so he can see the ocean for the first time, and of course their wedding, to name a few. Santini and Sickles successfully use past audio and video footage to help the audience feel an even deeper connection with Dina. Dina was awarded the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for Documentaries at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and its heart-warming story, humor, and style make this no surprise. I enjoyed Dina, but at times it does flounder without a clear direction, which does have a negative effect on the flow of the film.

Rating: 3 out of 5