After the ominous POV start we’re introduced to Su-min (Lee Ju-won) – a timid photographer who witnesses a murder on the rooftops of a poorly developed Seoul district. In a nice homage to Rear Window, he photographs the events but is spotted by the three assailants who promptly give chase. Thoughts that this could be an entire hour and a half of a cat-and-mouse chase over the district are quickly scuppered, as the trio soon find Su-min in his office building. Two pin him down as one raises a rather large hammer in the air and as it comes crashing down on his head Su-min wakes up naked in the middle of the night in the heart of the district streets.
The district poses as purgatory for Su-min, who has to navigate through the streets on repeat like a horror Groundhog Day, stuck in the maze with no way to escape. Having to face what appear to be his demons, from the past. It’s intriguing, but unfortunately the story steps too far over its marker. Su-min, as it turns out, it’s actually a pretty horrible person, and with no sense of regret or redemption its increasingly hard to root for him. The big issue for the film is it reveals its hand far too early and then commits the cardinal sin of just simply spelling everything out for the audience, and with that the film is lost. After spending nearly 10 minutes of watching Su-min literally walk around the streets alone on repeat in silence while you scream at the screen “Alright, we get it. He’s ALONE”, to be then told flat out what it all means, the ‘hidden’ meanings of the film, it’s a real slap in the face and you wonder to yourself what happened to the promising film you were offered not less than an hour ago.
Director Park Hong-min is relentless in his delivery of this dark but ultimately lack-lustre affair. He wants you to embrace the nightmare that Su-min is living through. He wants you to live the same frustrations, and we do, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. It grinds you down and takes away from the experience. The acting felt inconsistent, sometimes over the top. The production value, which is a shining star in this film, works nicely with the story. The long, no-cut style really mirrors what’s happening on screen; it’s jarring and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Alone, for the first hour at least, hits its notes perfectly, but there’s a swift downturn and you’ll quickly go from loving to hating it in the blink of an eye.
Alone screens at the SVA Theatre July 6th 6:30PM