A Grand Jury prize winner at Sundance earlier this year, Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini's documentary is an intimate look at an evolving romantic relationship between two people with Asperger Syndrome. At 48 years old, Dina has seen and lived through quite a bit in her lifetime while Scott is the less experienced of the two. Mostly it's a character study of Dina herself, an outgoing soul whose lifestyle and personality largely defies the expectations society hold about people with her condition. It's a sweet documentary that does what it says on the tin without ever really coming to life.
Sickles and Santini take an observational approach leaving the camera in a fixed position capturing various elements of Dina's world. She was married previously and has experienced a number of bad relationships since, but that hasn't prevented her from retaining her optimism about love and romance. At home she's an avid Sex In The City and Kardashian fan and keen to share her physical affection with Scott. He is a Walmart employee around the same age of Dina, who moves into her apartment ahead of their forthcoming marriage. Like any couple, co-habitation presents some issues with the largest of all being Scott's reluctance to express himself physically with his bride-to-be.
Sickles is a lifelong friend of Dina and while it’s difficult to doubt the sincerity of his intentions, there are some question marks raised. It’s hard not to feel a little intrusive in some of the more intimate moments listening to their frank discussions about sex and pouring their hearts out to each other. That eventually follows through to a chilling recollection of an earlier moment in Dina's life heard through an old 911 call. It feels a little sensationalist and difficult to understand why the information is presented in a way so out of kilter with the rest of the film, especially given where it appears and how quickly it is brushed back under the carpet.
In a way that the directors probably never intended, Dina fully achieves its objective. Dina and Scott's life isn't anything other than mildly interesting to observe and their lives appear as unremarkable as those who don't live with an autistic disorder. Whether this is enough to inspire a full length documentary, or if a shorter version might have had more of an impact, is open for debate. You want to assume the film was made for the right reasons but if the selling point is the couple’s quirkiness – differences that come about from their varying levels of autism – then you might further question its validity. Even with that debate taken out of the equation, Sickles and Santini’s documentary is mostly passable fare and the recipient of praise that it is mostly undeserving of.