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TIFF 2021 Review: Are You Lonesome Tonight? – “Impressive understanding of the power of visuals and sound”

After an accidental killing, a guilt-ridden young man befriends the widow and becomes entangled in a web of deceit.

A prisoner (Eddie Peng) reflects on what led him to be incarcerated.  It turns out he is an air conditioning repairman who was involved in a hit and run incident and disposed of the body; however, that does not mark the end of the incident as his conscience gets the best of him and he seeks out and establishes a friendship with the widow.  A reckoning is in order both for the dead and living as dark secrets are revealed and the pathway to redemption becomes a matter a live and death.

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There is a cinematic panache at work in the feature directorial debut of Wen Shipei who collaborated with four different cinematographers to make a neon light infused crime noir that makes use of slow dissolves between scenes for an almost dream-like quality.  Another prominent element is the sound of ceiling fans being distorted to reflected the mental state of the main characters.  Both of these visual and audio cues are reminiscent to what Francis Ford Coppola and Walter Murch used so effectively in Apocalypse Now.

As much as there is a slickness in the technical execution it cannot gloss over the plodding narrative that feels self-congratulating in the various twists and turns that have been devised.  Flashbacks provide different perspectives as to what happened during certain events which do add to the intrigue.  But everything is dependent upon familiar tropes that involve a key, a locker and a leather bag.  In the end, despite the impressive understanding of the power of visuals and sound, the story itself is a retread of what has been done before.

The 46th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18, 2021, and for more information visit    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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