In Hong Sung-eun’s drama, a young woman reconsiders her solitary nature after her neighbour is crushed to death by porn.
“No one would notice your absence anyway.”
We all need alone time. Moments away from everyone else where we can recharge our batteries, play some mobile games, catch up on our life admin and YouTube subscriptions, and do whatever else we need to do before we can face the stresses of the outside world again. For those who thrive in the company of others this is never too long but for others, like our titular main character, any human contact is too much.
Jin-Ah (Gong Seung-Yeon) is a loner, and lives a quiet but seemingly content life by herself. She works at a credit card call centre and while she does her job well, she hasn’t formed any friendships with anyone there. A neighbour (Seo Hyun-woo) often tries to strike a conversation with her, but like everyone else she politely dismisses him – that is, until he is found dead in his apartment, having been there a week. She learns he was just much of a loner as she is, which causes Jin-ah to reconsider some of her life choices.
Despite its simple premise, Aloners has a little bit more going on than just its base plot. There are a few side stories that run alongside it, including Jin-ah having to mentor new girl Park Su-jin (Jung Da-eun) at work, while struggling with the relationship with her father after the death of her mother. All three of those stories contribute to the overall themes and overarching plot, where Jin-ah learns that while she could be perfectly content being by herself forever, she nevertheless has responsibilities as a co-worker, daughter and friend. And, presumably, should she die suddenly she would want someone to check on her long before her body starts to stink.
Aloners balances nicely the pros of cons of her lifestyle choice, and never feels like it’s trying to preach one way or the other. It acknowledges that this is how people live and while Jun-ah isn’t always the most charming character, her position is relatable. I’ve been this closed off, and it’s difficult to take on a social persona when you’re not used to it. This is best seen in my favourite of the three storylines – the one with Su-jin. Jun-ah’s sometimes abrasive style can be a bit much, and while Su-jin is very friendly, if a touch annoying, even she has her limits, eventually quitting after believing that Jun-ah’s problem is with her. It shows nicely that sometimes inaction is just as hurtful as actions, and that keeping to yourself might be hurting others, even if it’s not meant.
Aloners is much like its lead: very quiet. It’s a movie that explores loneliness in a way that doesn’t feel invasive and actually often feels like director Hong Sung-eun is speaking on the behalf of those who cannot, or don’t know how to. And while it isn’t as introspective as I might have thought (Jun-Ah doesn’t really start to question her attitudes until the final twenty or so minutes), when it does go down that route, it does so really nicely. For people who have experienced what Jun-ah is, this is probably going to ring a few bells and for the others, the outgoing types who think we’re being standoffish and rude, maybe you’ll learn that we’re just a bit quiet. Our resting bitch face isn’t our fault.
Verdict: Its down-to-earth charms and solid performances means Aloners is a film you won’t want to leave alone.
Overall entertainment: 7/10
Memorials: At least two
Cigarettes: Taste better when lit with a match, always
Call centres: Altogether too many scenes on the phone to customers
Also known as: 혼자 사는 사람들
Director: Hong Sung-Eun
Writer: Hong Sung-Eun
Gong Seung-Yeon – Jin-Ah
Jung Da-Eun – Jung Da-Eun