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A Tantalizing Neo-Noir Journey: Unraveling Secrets and Guilt in a Dark Underworld

MOVIE REVIEW
Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Re dai wang shi)

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Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 35m
Director(s): Wen Shipei
Writer(s): Zhao Binghao, Wang Yinuo, Wen Shipei, Noé Dodson
Cast: Eddie Peng, Sylvia Chang, Wang Yanhui, Zhang Yu, Jiang Peiyao
Language: Chinese w/ English Subtitles
Where To Watch: premieres on VOD & Digital March 17, 2023


RAVING REVIEW: An enthralling neo-noir thriller, ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? masterfully combines memory, flashback, and narration to create a captivating story. Director Wen Shipei skillfully explores the emotional turmoil of a young man grappling with guilt after an accident and the mysterious bond he forms with an unexpected person. Simultaneously, a detective is hell-bent on solving a case that will forever alter his life. Set in the backdrop of 1990s Guangzhou, the fifth largest city in China, the film received a Camera d'Or nomination at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. It was also an Official Selection at the Toronto International Film Festival.


The plot revolves around an air conditioning technician whose unintentional actions result in a devastating mishap, plunging him into a world of guilt and despair. In search of solace, he becomes entwined with someone close to the victim, making their relationship anything but simple. The film's immersive world draws viewers in, amplified by evocative sound design that features the sounds of a city with little definition. Through the lens of the cinematographer, the essence of mid-'90s China comes alive, revealing a dark underworld filled with criminals and their surroundings that are ready to be changed forever.

ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? showcases a rising star in Chinese cinema. Eddie Peng, known for his roles in pulse-pounding blockbusters, transitions to a smaller film in name but just as large in stature with this neo-noir thriller. His performance is filled with tension from one scene to the next, and you can feel his anxiety on screen.

The protagonist's motivations, though intriguing, feel somewhat forced, and the development of the supporting cast could be better. Nevertheless, the movie's visual style, incredible cinematography, and Wen Shipei's distinctive directorial touch help mitigate these issues.

The political subtext, derived from the backdrop of Hong Kong's fading independence and imminent reintegration with China, adds a layer of complexity to the story. This gives the film a deeper narrative that lets you feel engaged beyond that of the main story.

In summary, ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? is a visually striking and atmospheric neo-noir thriller that underscores Wen Shipei's remarkable directorial prowess. While the narrative occasionally stumbles, the film's unique aesthetic and subtle political nuances merge to form a mesmerizing cinematic experience. With an outstanding cast, ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT? is a must-see for anyone seeking a fascinating exploration of the human psyche.

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[photo courtesy of ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT?]