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Aloners - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Hon-ja sa-neun sa-ram-deul

South Korea 2021


Hong Sung-eun

Gong Seung-yeon
Jung Da-eun
Kim Hae-na
Kim Mo-beom
Won Hyun-joon
Lee Sun-joo
Park Jung-hak

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Aloners - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Jin-ah (Gong Seung-yeon) works in a call center of a credit card company. She always does her job reliably and that's why she is repeatedly employee of the month. During her lunch break, she always goes out to eat alone and watches some show on her cell phone, just as she does on her way home. She avoids people wherever possible. However, she soon has to meet up with her father (Park Jung-hak) because her mother's testament has to be signed. Her mother recently died, and even though Jin-ah's father separated from her 17 years ago, he just got back together with her a few years ago. Jin-ah hasn't been able to process all this emotionally yet, and she wants nothing to do with her father. At work, she is not being left alone either, as her supervisor (Kim Hae-na) wants her to train a new colleague. She refuses at first, but has to give in, as she has no other choice. Soo-jin (Jung Da-eun), the new colleague, is very young and inexperienced. In addition, she wants to get closer to Jin-ah and she is not discouraged by her cold, dismissive nature. Then, one day, Jin-ah's neighbor dies, but no one notices it for days. So, Jin-ah has to ask herself whether anybody would care if she was found dead one day too...

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Review: "Aloners" is a drama about solitude and loneliness. At the center of the story is the difference between these two states and a protagonist who slowly has to ask herself whether she is still just alone or lonely already. At the same time, Jin-ah is also a highly productive employee which symbolizes capitalism. She's always friendly and helpful when she's on the phone, and she doesn't mind apologizing for the fifteenth time for something she is not responsible for. But after hours, she doesn't want to have anything to do with anyone anymore. All this could drift off into a very gloomy outline of life in the big city, if "Aloners" weren't also full of life. Just as Jin-ah actually seems completely unapproachable and cold, but still manages to act as the movie's engine with her gentle charisma, director Hong Sung-eun also manages to avoid the typical pitfalls of an indie drama.

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The protagonist's reservedness gets also obvious by the fact that she always walks around with her cell phone in front of her face, even though this is not necessarily a rare image these days. But she even watches entire series on it. Consuming insignificant shows generally seems to be the only thing she spends her free time with. She ignores her neighbor when he sometimes tries to start a conversation with her, and when he eventually dies in his apartment, it doesn't really seem to affect her either. If only it weren't for the fact that she saw him when he was actually already dead. She even tells a potential new neighbor, totally unfazed, that she has seen a ghost. Of course, with the intention of scaring him away. This supernatural element may be short-lived, but it's strange and makes you wonder which of the aspects shown are actually just taking place in Jin-ah's mind.

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Nevertheless, her neighbor's death is the little nudge that makes Jin-ah rethink her life. There is also some dry humor in the movie from time to time, e.g., the man's cause of death. The new employee, who needs to be trained, lightens up the mood too. As a young girl Jung Da-eun (who can be seen in the Netflix series "Bloodhounds") brings life into the movie and represents the counter-image of Jin-ah. However, even she can't get close to Jin-ah, who lets her come along when she goes out to eat, but then just sits by herself. Then again, the girl is also struggling with her own problems, and when she asks why she has to apologize to an angry customer even though she hasn't done anything wrong, Jin-ah doesn't understand her at first. In addition, the new employee has a conversation on a human level with a confused man who thinks he's a time traveler and wants to know if his credit card also works in the past. Jin-ah, on the other hand, has always answered his questions in a purely professional way before.

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Gong Seung-yeon does a great job, as you are able to warm up to the protagonist and her life despite her disinterest in her environment. Ultimately, "Aloners" is a character portrait, and of course, it stands and falls with the leading actress. Obviously, Jin-ah is going through a change, even if it's just a subtle one, and a lot of the baggage that she carries has to do with her parents. Understandably, she has a difficult relationship with her father, but through a camera that is still installed in the apartment because of her mother, she can observe her father and maybe hopes to get closer to him in this way. In addition, there is her superior, who is certainly not her friend, but she shares time with her during smoking breaks and therefore means at least something to her - even though she would never admit it. In the end, she realizes that, for example, she didn't treat her new co-worker that nicely, and you can see that she has grown as a character.

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Of course, the biggest concern with movies like this is that the pacing could be too slow. And indeed, the director takes her time to shed light on the protagonist's life in detail and to show her in her everyday actions. She steers clear of trivialities, though. Somehow, "Aloners" reminded me of "This Charming Girl", a movie which was a good deal more long-winded, but to this day, has somehow managed to stay in my head. I doubt that "Aloners" will manage to do the same, but on the other hand, it is often not noticeable that it is an indie flick. With its 90 minutes, the story is not dragged out either. "Aloners" is one of those flicks that doesn't force its message on you, but it expects you to engage with the story. As a reward, you might be taken on an interesting journey.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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