Warning: Together and this review discuss suicide. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or have desires to self-harm, please call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service, 1-833-456-4566.
While working on his critically-acclaimed film In Her Place, Canadian director Albert Shin became aware of South Korea’s alarming suicide rate, one of the highest among developed countries. As Shin continued researching, he discovered that internet suicide pacts between strangers who meet online were prevalent—a phenomenon he describes as “peculiar”. In Together, Shin searches for the humanity behind this disturbing trend.
The short film begins with a young woman (Ahn So-yo) meeting a middle aged man (Kim Jae-rok) at a motel. After a limited exchange, the two prepare their room for their ultimate end. When they’re unable to fall asleep, the young woman proposes they have a drink. This eventually results in an impromptu room party full of drinking, dancing, and laughter. As the night goes on, the impending inevitability awaits them.
Coming in at under 12 minutes long, Shin uses every second of the short to create a powerful statement about the beauty of life. Little dialogue is exchanged, which allows the words that are spoken to breathe. At one point, the two discuss what they ate for dinner the night before. Where the young woman says nothing, the man replies, “marbled sirloin”. Coupled with his satisfied smile when answering, the simple response shows his appreciation for food’s ability to nourish the soul.
This, along with the laughter the two share while dancing, emphasizes the complexity of mental health. These two individuals aren’t angry or overtly sad, but clearly something haunts them to the extent that they have met in this particular manner. Shin doesn’t spend any time on why these two wish to end their lives, instead he chooses to focus on their connection.
There is something paradoxical about two individuals who wish to end their lives but desire the companionship of another while doing so. This speaks to the innate yearning we have as humans for kinship. Even in our darkest moments, we would rather find comfort in other like-minded people than walk alone.
Together’s final shot is a beautiful coastal sunrise with bewitching shades of orange on the horizon and a breeze that delicately combs through your hair. A fitting end to a film that celebrates the simplicities of life that make it worth living.