Aloners @ TIFF

My TIFF experience began with a film from South Korea, Directed by Hong Sung-eun, Aloners is a film that is rather close to the filmmaker’s heart. In her introduction to the film clip she explained that the lead character of Jina is very much modelled on herself. That she led a rather solitary life. By choice. She kept her distance from people on purpose because she was sensitive. So sensitive that she found herself in pain a lot due to different relationships. Deciding that being alone and at a distance from others was the way to go. Later she then realized that distancing herself was painful to people who cared for her. So what was she to do?

Filmmakers communicate with the world by making films. They represent themselves, us, the part of the globe they hail from, and the world around them. At their best they not only make us feel but think or teach us something. I felt and learned while watching this. Learned that people living alone is quite rampant in South Korea. They even have a word for it – holojok. It means people who choose to live in one-person households. They make up one-third of all homes in Seoul.

Aloners is Hong Sung-eun’s first film and it announces her as a voice to be listened to in the film world. As a person who lives alone out of choice, working at a credit card call centre is the perfect job for Jin-a (Gong Seung-Yeon – first film). She is a person who lives in a small apartment in a building that looks like many others and puts her earbuds in traveling to and fro from work in order to avoid talking to anyone. Including her next-door neighbour, who is always outside smoking and tries to talk to her.

Her tightly controlled life is changed when she is ordered by her boss to train a new employee, Soo-jin (Jung Da-eun), and her next door neighbour dies bringing in a new guy next door. Jin-a is not happy. Not happy to have to talk to people – a couple of people. All this causes Jin-a to reevaluate everything about her life.

Sometimes this felt so real I almost felt like I was watching a documentary at times. The character study based on Jin-a’s life is so intimate that you definitely see the world from her point of view. Abstract (at least until it isn’t) and filled with atmosphere.

A film that portrays what many would see as an alternative way of living. Choosing to be alone. Plus Jin-a is not exactly a likable character for the most part. Rather abrasive. In a quiet and slow-paced way, we begin to see the layers of Jina. We see there is much more going on beneath her surface than we might have originally thought. What makes her tick is slowly revealed. Hint: it is a family thing. Patience is required but might even get you to think about how you have chosen to live your life and the way you think of other’s existence.