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The emotional sterility of modern life comes under the microscope of this understated Korean drama in which a young woman who has built self-preserving walls around her lonely existence begins to wonder if the trade-off is worth it. Outside of the soul-sucking call center job at which Jina (Gong Seung-Yeon) excels, her interactions with others are purely parasocial: she streams mukbangs on her phone as she eats alone, wakes up to the blare of her always-on TV, and checks in on her aging father via the security camera she’s surreptitiously installed in his home. When she reluctantly agrees to train the chatty, warm newbie (Jeong Da-eun) at work, Jina is confronted with a direct challenge to her aloofness, but the provocation is easily ignored until a similarly withdrawn neighbor is discovered long after his death.

This triggers a quarter-life crisis for Jina that’s predictably resolved, but Aloners transcends the neatness of this arc thanks to its quietly persistent challenging of the instinct to contort oneself to fit an inhumane world. Hong Sung-eun’s thoughtful first-time direction and Gong’s nuanced performance as a young woman waking up to the creeping dehumanization of herself make Aloners a genuinely thought-provoking reflection on 21st-century life.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahn Jeong-bin, Geum Hae-na, Gong Seung-yeon, Jeong Da-eun, Ju Seok-tae, Kim Hae-na, Kwak Min-kyu, Park Jeong-hak, Seo Hyun-woo

Director: Hong Sung-eun