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TIFF 2021 Review: Aloners – “This is a commendable feature directorial debut”

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Events at work and in her personal life, causes a young woman to question her decision to avoid relationships with other people.

Jina (Gong Seung-yeon) is the top employee at a credit-card call centre who approaches her job in an efficient manner; she is less so when dealing with her boss and coworkers as her social skills are lacking.  Everything Jina does has her avoiding human contact as much as possible. This is made difficult when her mother dies and Jina she is drawn into contact with her estranged father, she has to deal with a new neighbour upon the tragic death of the previous occupant, and train a colleague.

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A solitary life is what Jina seeks and it is a credit to Gong Seung-yeon that she can make her character intriguing by using her eyes and facial expressions.  In fact, the best moments are when she is on her own. The call centre scenes though critical to the narrative do not completely ring true as they feel to be trying too hard just like the new recruit.  The obsession with mobile devices rather than conversations with others is utilized well in particular when Jina would rather use security camera footage than talk to her father to better understand the life of her parents.

It is not completely understandable as to what has led Jina to decide to spend her life alone though perhaps a family betrayal had a role to play.  The circumstances that cause her to question her decision are realistic though I am not completely sure that character arc is entirely believable.  The traditional cinematography and editing are appropriate as, unlike the mobile devices depicted, it enables you to get a sense of the world that exists around the characters.  This is a commendable feature directorial debut for Hong Sung-eun who will be a cinematic talent to watch out for in the future.

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

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

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