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TIFF 2021 Review: Together – “The subject matter is treated with respect”

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Two strangers who have met through the Internet make a plan to die in the presence of the other.

A young woman walks into a hotel room and is later joined by an older man; they proceed to seal off their surroundings with duct tape so no air can enter and turn on portable ovens. The reason for the rendezvous is not for a sexual tryst but to commit suicide together.

Check out all of our TIFF coverage
There is a minimalist approach adopted by filmmaker Albert Shin for his short film that screens as part of the Short Cuts programme.  The story revolves around two characters, their actions take place within a single room and not many words are passed between them.  The dialogue is economical such as Internet handles being used as means of identification which in turn reveals how they met.  There are no fancy camera moves just an observational perspective which means everything depends upon actors Ahn So Yu and Kim Jae-Rok being able to create a believable awkward bond which they are successfully able to achieve.

The subject matter is treated with respect as there are no cliche speeches about the decline in humanity or reveling in self-pity.  Instead, the characters calmly go about organizing what they have resolved to do which creates a tone that is best described as a quiet dignity.  The narrative choice is a double edge sword in that while believable it undercuts the emotional impact of the dramatic conclusion.  By keeping what led to the decision to end their lives a mystery it makes understanding and empathizing with them much more difficult for the viewer.

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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