‘Cigarette Girl’ Travels Between the 1960s and the 2000s
Dasiyah (Dian Sastrowardoyo) stands at the head of a table wearing a high-necked gray jacket.
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Cigarette Girl

A Queue editor recommends the Indonesian historical drama for those looking to be transported to a different time and place.

8 November 20235 min read

One of the best things television and film can do is transport an audience. When you leave the cinema after seeing one of Wes Anderson’s pastel visions, for example, it can take walking a block or two before you fully reenter reality. Cigarette Girl, the biggest Netflix production to come out of Indonesia, is an unforgettably immersive tale, transporting us into a love story that ripples across generations.

Based on a critically acclaimed novel by Ratih Kumala, Cigarette Girl follows two storylines, taking place in the 1960s and the early 2000s. In the 60s, Dasiyah (Dian Sastrowardoyo) works alongside her father in his tobacco business, overseeing the women who hand roll the cigarettes, though she has lofty ambitions to become a tobacco flavor specialist, a role reserved for men. As you watch Dasiyah in the first few minutes alone, every sense is awakened; it’s as if you’re smelling the tobacco leaves and running your fingers through the cloves beside her. When the ambitious cigarette girl begins getting to know Raja (Ario Bayu), an intriguing new employee of her family’s business, her world is forever changed. Sastrowardoyo and Bayu bring a natural chemistry to their characters that will enchant viewers.

In 2001, Lebas (Arya Saloka) begins looking into the relationship between Raja, his father, and Dasiyah. In his search, he meets Arum (Putri Marino) and together they try to piece together the story of Raja and Dasiyah, becoming closer to one another in the process. So much tension and anticipation hangs in each conversation and every hand that accidentally touches a wrist. As the two couples grow closer, you’re pulled deeper into their world, and into their love stories, set against the backdrop of a beautiful country. 

Cigarette Girl is the perfect series for those who find beauty in the details of a show, from the embroidery on a blouse to an engraving on a wooden tobacco box. It’s easy to get pulled into the drama, as stakes heighten episode by episode. Cigarette Girl offers a sensory experience not to be missed.