TIFF ’21: Writer-Director Albert Shin Presents An Overlooked South Korean Narrative In ‘Together’

By: Amanda Guarragi

Korean-Canadian Albert Shin’s Together presents a narrative that has been overlooked for some time. The stigma surrounding mental health needs to come to an end, so we, as a society, can help one another. When working on In Her Place, Shin learned about the seriousness of Korea’s suicide rate. South Korea consistently has had the highest suicide rate of any developed country in the world. As he went deeper in his research, he came across ‘Internet suicide pacts’, which is a serious, and peculiar issue in Korea’s suicide problem.

“It was interesting. There was something about it that was sad, but also weirdly life affirming. That even as people are wanting to leave this planet, they are still looking to find connection with other people to actually go through with it in solidarity.”

– Albert Shin, Writer-Director of ‘Together’

Internet suicide pacts are when strangers meet on the Internet and make a pact to rendezvous somewhere to commit suicide together. If this is the first time you’re hearing about this, then Albert Shin did his job as a filmmaker. Shin wanted to raise awareness for the climbing suicide rate. Together is a short film that shows the entire spectrum of human emotion and connectivity in a short period of time. All Shin needed was a couple of moments between Ahn So Yo and Kim Jae-Rok to show their loneliness and bleak outlook.

What was most impressive about Shin’s direction, was his ability to use the emptiness of the apartment to mirror those feelings with his characters,

“We were able to explore different places. We allowed ourselves a space and some time to explore different avenues. We tried things and went to darker places. They really opened themselves up and kind of bared themselves in different ways. It was hard to watch and it was hard to direct. It was hard to find a space where they could feel comfortable going into those places.”

– Albert Shin, Writer-Director of ‘Together’

The preparation they had to do for their one last night on this Earth was difficult to watch. They were going through the motions without even questioning it. The set up with the gas, and the tape on the door creases, will hit you emotionally. But once these two characters talk to each other, on their last night together and enjoy each other’s company, the night unfolds differently.

TIFF 2021: Together Review - That Shelf

Even though the subject matter is a bit heavy, Shin explores human connectivity through a certain level of darkness. They go through this one night together, changing their perception about the act that they contractually made. They question life and death, even when just glancing at each other. The cinematography from Moon Myoung Hwan and the score by Leland Whitty elevated each scene, as the mental state of the characters poured out into the apartment. In the end, connecting with someone else, during a very dark moment, can change the course of your life.

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