Are You Lonesome Tonight? Crime

TIFF Review: ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ is a Meditative Thriller About Atonement and Redemption

September 18, 2021Ben MK

What is it that makes good men do bad things? For some, a moment of weakness may give way to one bad decision that can lead to a lifetime of regret; whereas for others, one act of indiscretion might be compounded by a dozen more, all committed in an attempt to reverse the original error in judgment. That said, one should never underestimate the power of one's own conscience — for not only can it lead the guilty to take responsibility for their actions, it can help them to find redemption as well.

Take Wang Xueming (Eddie Peng), for example. An air conditioner repairman, Xueming finds his life forever altered after he's involved in the fatal hit-and-run of a man one night. At first having fled the scene, Xueming later returns to hide the evidence of his crime by dragging the body into a nearby ditch. But when his remorse for his actions get the better of him, he's compelled to visit the man's grieving wife, Huifang (Sylvia Chang), and make amends. Unbeknownst to Xueming, however, he may not have been the only one with a part to play in the death of Huifang's husband. And when he becomes entangled in a plot involving a bag of money stashed away in a train station locker, Xueming must not only find a way out of the mess he's gotten himself into, he must do so in a way that also quells the feelings of guilt that have been dogging him ever since that fateful night.

The feature debut of director Shipei Wen, the result mixes psychological drama with elements of a crime thriller, with the line between the two genres becoming increasingly blurred as the film goes on. Suffice to say, moviegoers in the mood for an atmospheric noir mystery need look no further than Are You Lonesome Tonight? — just don't read too much into the movie's titular reference to Elvis Presley's 1960 chart-topper.

Are You Lonesome Tonight? screens under the Contemporary World Cinema programme at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 35 min.

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