Biko (2023) Review: A Manipulative Tear-jerker Filled with Cliches

Biko (2023) Movie Review

Teng Bee’s ‘Biko’ is primarily about a relationship of a child with his father. Set in Malaysia, this Netflix release follows a generic pattern of melodrama. We meet Biko (played by Syed Irfan), a young kid who gets teased at his school for not being wealthy. While a rich classmate brags about his family’s upcoming trip to Cameron islands, he does not miss a chance to mock Biko since he cannot do the same.

A classic set-up of a rich-vs-poor narrative could have worked incredibly better if it had been released decades ago. Unfortunately, in 2023, it feels like an abysmal attempt to generate sympathy for its characters.

Through this same flaw, Biko becomes another film that believes good intentions are enough to make a good movie. With this belief, it uses the same-old manipulative treatment without adding layers to its characters or providing any new insight related to such real-life characters. 

The reason for Biko’s embarrassment and financial struggle is his father Izwan’s (played by Azrel Ismail) low-paying job. With his temporary pattern of work with no job security or safety net, Izwan struggles even to make ends meet in his daily life. That’s why fulfilling his son’s dream of a foreign country tour is a stretch beyond plausibility.

But he takes care of young Biko with all his heart. He works extra shifts so that he can provide Biko with something better once in a while. The kid also adores him, despite the occasional minor quibbles. They live in a van because Izwan does not have or earn enough money to rent a house. Despite that, a strong emotional connection between them makes either forget these worries. They share their little joys the best they can.

However, Biko’s world is limited by what Izwan exposes him to. It does not seem particularly cruel on his part since you empathize that he just wants to manage his child’s expectations because of his unsteady wage pattern. So, even when he hides Biko from some of life’s bigger joys, you find it hard to hate him. After all, he is the same person who packs the expensive lunch for Biko out of guilt and has nothing but a bite from it. There’s obviously a part of him that deeply cares for his child, just like there is a part that understands the reality of his situation. 

Biko (2023) Movie Review

But it is not just the big hopes that Izwan keeps Biko away from. He also hides the identity of his mother. Because of years of drifting apart in different directions, Izwan finds it hard to bring back even the memories of her. As a result of that, he also keeps his child in the dark. The film eventually reveals the reason for their separation and how different parts of social structures perceive one another. There is another classic romance trope of ‘a poor guy falls in love with a rich girl’ that almost always leads to an inevitably doomed romance. 

Besides this tired trope, the aspect of parenting is discussed in a similarly known fashion.  You can sense the emotional beats from miles ago that keep their impact largely dull. In the absence of his mother – Sara (played by Baby Shima), Sherry (played by Sara Ali) comes into the picture. Despite not even being married to Izwan, she takes care of the child out of genuine concern. While working on her hectic job on movie sets, she still manages to find time to share the burden on her friend, Izwan’s shoulders. 

Meanwhile, in the years apart from Izwan, Sara became a successful pop star. Her success translates into her individual wealth. That continues to keep a barrier between her and her ex, whose arguments were precisely due to the subject of money. Through all its dramatic settings around this problem, the end result remains embarrassingly familiar.

Besides the bad script, the performances cannot save the film either to build any emotional connection. Azrel Ismail still manages to evoke pathos for his struggling father character despite the clichéd tragedies he falls into. However, the supporting cast, especially Baby Shima, falls into the same pattern of thinking that loud acting equates to good. So, an overall lack of subtlety and an abundance of cliches make this recent Netflix release a forgettable watch. 

Read More: Call Me Chihiro (2023) Review: A heartwarming character-driven drama that passes by like a gentle breeze

Biko (2023) Movie Links: IMDb
Biko (2023) Movie Cast: Azrel Ismail, Baby Shima, Syed Irfan, Sara Ali
Where to watch Biko
Akash Deshpande

Obsessed, fascinated, and always nerding out about cinema! You can find me in the corner of a room ruminating over the last TV series I watched.