Aloners Review: Hong Sung-Eun’s Formidable Debut Offers A Timely Reflection Of Our Existence

The feature directorial debut of filmmaker Hong Sung-eun, alone, embodies the idea that cinema can be a universal language. Though it tells a distinctly Korean story, the questions of life (and by extension, livelihood) it explores apply to all of us, no matter where we are in the world. In this way, Hong effectively holds up a mirror of who and where we are as an increasingly disconnected society, drawing a beautiful line between what it means to be alone and what it means to be alone and, more importantly, what it means to be alone. it takes to cross that line and open up to those around you.


Starring Gong Seung-yeon, alone follows a young woman named Jina, who apparently prefers a life of solitude. She drifts in and out of her unglamorous but easy job at a credit card company’s call center without investing more emotional energy than she needs to (in both her clients and coworkers). When she’s not working, Jina is permanently glued to her screens, whether it’s watching cooking videos on her phone during her lunch break or on the way to and from work, or browsing endless channels on her TV at home. barely furnished.

Of course, throughout alone, some unexpected changes in her life threaten to disrupt the rigid routine that Jina has established for herself. Her estranged father communicates with her through her recently deceased mother’s phone, hers’ new next-door neighbor demonstrates unwarranted kindness, and she is tasked with training a overeager new employee in call center.

A powerfully restrained performance by Gong Seung-yeon

There are so many great movies about loneliness that it could certainly be a subgenre all on its own. However, what distinguishes alone of the package is the way in which the full truth of Jina’s circumstances is revealed almost like a mystery. Similar to how Jina keeps the people around her at a distance, Hong quickly establishes a great distance between us, the viewers, and her leading lady. Interestingly, when you consider that the film was the filmmaker’s way of exploring her personal fears (according to her interview with Variety), it almost sounds like Hong is shielding Jina from the audience. We are, after all, strangers, from a different country and culture, too, for that matter.

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Here, Youngki Choi’s cinematography is key, favoring long and medium shots from multiple angles that simultaneously allow us a full view of Jina, but, avoiding visual pomp and incorporating a more naturalistic lens, still doesn’t offer much in terms of characterization: at least, not at first. It is not until the characters surrounding Jina, her father (Park Jeong-hak), her uninterested neighbor (Seo hyun-woo), her doe-eyed apprentice (Jeong De-eun), eliminate the reserve her when we get clues. as to why Jina is apparently reluctant to commit to those who try to get to know her.

Eventually, we learn just how much pain (of losing her mother) and fear (of getting hurt again from potentially losing someone she loves) Jina holds on to. When the dam bursts, when we finally understand the full scope of what’s going on, we’re treated to a masterclass performance by Gong, who, in a single scene, bares his character’s soul with abandon, a complete reversal of the closed – outside of the woman we’ve come to know. For Jina, it’s a relief to finally let her guard down, and for us, it’s hard not to be somehow transformed by her vulnerability.

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We are not alone

Aloners 2021 Korean Movie
Korean Academy of Motion Picture Arts

Last month, NPR published an article detailing the loneliness epidemic that persists in America. Spurred by the digital age and undoubtedly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, people in many places feel more isolated than ever. As is clear from aloneIt’s an all too familiar feeling experienced even by those oceans away. A stroke of genius on Hong’s part in channeling this concept onto Jina, though, is that there isn’t really a bigger accusation at stake. Yes, Jina is almost always connected to a screen, whether it’s at work or in his spare time, but Hong is smart not to necessarily use technology as a scapegoat, and his film is made better for it.

When we feel lonely, it’s natural for us to turn to our screens, whether it’s to, like Jina, check on her ailing father now that he’s alone, or to lose ourselves in someone else’s world with a movie. In fact, the process of reviewing a movie today, on a small screen, with headphones on, in solitude (as was the case with this writer here), is no different from the constant streaming that Jina participates in for the most part. part of alone. Stories, after all, are how we connect with each other across space and time. The key, from time to time, which is beautifully exemplified in the final shot of Hong’s film, is to look up.

Produced by the Korean Academy of Motion Picture Arts and initially distributed by The Coup, alone It is already available on VOD and digitally.

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