In “Aloners,” the impressive debut feature from writer / director Hong Seong-eun, is a subtle look at the very real experience of true loneliness. This thoughtful film may resonate with a lot of viewers, striking a cord for those who embrace a solitary, isolated lifestyle. Although it may sound like it, this isn’t a sad or depressing movie at all.

Jina (Gong Seung-Yeon) lives inside the walls she’s created for herself. Distant and aloof, she shuts people out of her life. After her mother dies, Jina must face her estranged father in order to sign over the will. This makes the young woman feel even more alone, and she continues to bury herself in her job at a credit card call center as an act of social avoidance. Jina has become quite skilled at living alone, and it’s comforting that her life is one long, repetitive routine. The days and weeks blend together for Jina because her pattern never varies:

Work – eat – t.v. – sleep.

Work – eat – t.v. – sleep.

Work – eat – t.v. – sleep.

All of this changes when Jina hears a loud thud from the apartment next door. She thinks nothing of it until a week later when the police arrive to clean up the body. On top of it all, Jina’s office life is disrupted with the arrival of an eager and annoying new intern at work, one that the boss wants her to spend time training. All she wants to do is to be left alone, but everyone is making it impossible for her.

There isn’t much to this film plot-wise, but there’s a richness and depth to the story that comes not just from the Seong-eun’s savvy handling of the thematic elements, but from the subtle, meaningful performance from Seung-Yeon. She carries the film with a quiet pain, embodying a woman who has lost the ability to experience the true joy of living.

Nobody can truly want to go through this life and experience this world alone, even if they act like it. It’s the people you meet along the journey and the friendships formed that make a person feel alive. “Aloneness” is a wistful story about relationships: building new ones and repairing damaged ones. It’s a meaningful film that’s filled with hope and optimism, even if it takes a little while to get there.

This film was screened for review at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

By: Louisa Moore

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