Jina (Gong Seung-yeon) is the top employee at a call center, but despite talking to customers all day, she has shut out the world beyond her headset; she lives alone, eats alone, sleeps alone, and her cell phone is her constant companion. When one day she's tasked with training a friendly and naive new hire (Jung Da-eun), her icy armor is threatened. At the same time, she must navigate an incessantly ingratiating new neighbor, and increasingly urgent phone calls from her father, leaving Jina teetering on the edge of an existential crisis, forcing her to confront why she has isolated herself all these years. Riffing on the Korean ‘honjok’ – a phenomenon of young people who live alone and skirt social interaction – to examine the personal traumas of loss and alienation, this subtly poetic directorial debut is a "stirring portrait of the cages we build for ourselves and questions how and when we may want to be free of them," (Ms. Magazine).
- Gong Seung-yeon
- Jung Da-eun
- Seo Hyun-woo
- Park Jeong-hak
- Kim Hannah
Bonus Short Film
The Moths Will Eat Them Up
Directed by Luisa Martiri and Tanya Modini
A woman's normal train ride home at night turns into a terrifying game of cat and mouse with a stranger until an unforeseen force emerges.
- "CRITIC'S PICK Hong’s greatest strength is restraint. At every moment in which she could turn the film into an easier, feel-good story about a woman being taught how to wake up to life, she pulls back. Life is not so simple, and healing is hard. As much as “Aloners” is about grief, it’s also a portrait of the ennui of modern life, how easily people can shut themselves off and fall into the void — and how mundane that withering away looks. Yet you can spot, in the superb, subtle performances from Gong and Jung, the pain and desperation under the surface. "
- "The best scenes in Hong’s movie still reflect the ambient dread and solitary ecstasies of being a loner, especially if the lifestyle you’ve half-chosen and half-fallen into makes being apart from others seems like the best possible coping strategy. There’s nothing wrong with how Jina’s story ends, but it’s even more thrilling to see Hong let Jina be alone without prescribing what’s really going on with her. There are obvious reasons for and answers to Jina’s problems, but they never completely explain her away."
- "[S]ensitive...a reflective interrogation into modern loneliness, as well as the silent brutalities of today’s urban life defined by competition, technology and nonstop productivity...The film skillfully tackles several themes, including modern loneliness, but it ultimately serves as a thoughtful study about what it costs to be human, each with feelings and unique needs, in a hyper-competitive society that prioritizes profit and efficiency."
- "[A]cute character observation, impressive directorial control and a strong performance from lead actress Gong Seung-yeon. "
- "Bolstered by a layered and subtle performance of Gong, Aloners is a compelling snapshot of modern daily life for many in Korea and around the world."
- "An introspective film, simultaneously gripping and melancholy but punctuated by moments of humor, Aloners is a stirring portrait of the cages we build for ourselves—and questions how and when we may want to be free of them."
- "In one of the most complex and intriguing performances of 2021, Gong keeps us guessing about what Jin-na is really thinking and feeling."
- "This subtle, but effective vision of loneliness is wholly emotional and relatable, especially now. Featuring a powerful central performance, it marks a stellar directorial debut from Hong Seong-eun."
- "Actress Gong Seung-yeon is the film’s highlight. Her face remains passive for most of the film, but her body language tells us everything about Jina’s state of mind. "
- "[T]here’s both an emotional intelligence and wry sense of humour throughout Hong Sung-eun’s script. Hong’s calm, methodical directorial style and measured tone run in perfect sync with the subtle affect of Gong’s turn, while a soothing score from Lim Min-ju amplifies the tender anguish without ever overpowering."
- ""[A]n incredible debut...Aloners was one of the most engaging quiet films I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching...an expertly crafted movie""
- "A formidable debut…Hong effectively holds up a mirror to who and where we are as an increasingly disconnected society, tracing a line of beauty between what it means to be alone and what it means to be lonely, and, more importantly, what it takes to cross that line and open yourself up to those around you."
- "[A] moving drama with an excellent central performance."
Awards & Recognition
Osaka Asian Film Festival
Torino Film Festival
CGV Korean Independent Feature
Jeonju Film Festival
Best Acting Award
Jeonju Film Festival
Best New Actress
Korean Association of Film Critics
New Directors Award
San Sebastián Int'l. Film Festival
Asian Film Awards
Zurich Film Festival
Toronto Int'l. Film Festival