TIFF 2021: “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

There is nothing bad about having a guilty conscience because you simply realize you have done something terribly bad and try to find a way to live with that guilt or reveal it to someone. But what is the next step is the answer not everyone can provide.

Set in 90s China, air conditioning repairman Wang (Eddie Peng), while driving a car hits something. When he gets off the car, he finds the lifeless body of a man. In the meantime, Mrs Liang (Sylvia Chang) files a missing person’s case, looking for the man that got killed by Wang. The two do not realize their lives are about to converge in a way less expected for both.

The most interesting scene in the film is when Wang, having guilt, asks himself how can he confess to the widow about killing her husband when she does not seem sad about her husband`s passing. In a smart screenplay written by Zhao Binghao, Wang Yinuo, Wen Shipei and Noé Dodson, the film does not take the path of family violence; nothing like that. In fact, it takes a U-turn, providing a backstory to how Mr Liang ends up on the road before getting hit by the distracted driver.

The charming chemistry Eddie Peng and Sylvia Chang share is so beautiful, you totally believe what happens next. The scene when Wang confesses is the turning point in their relationship, and overall, Wang’s character arc. The more you see what he is capable of, the more you grow to respect him.

Indeed, stories like this we need to hear more often, and director Wen Shipei does not miss that in his impressive directorial debut. Because telling the truth reveals a heavy burden for someone who is honest and transparent. Wang could have chosen to remain silent and move on with his life. But because of his dignity and honesty, he chooses another path, the path of a brave man who is strong enough to face his faults and correct them, if necessary. And that’s the beauty of human beings when you know you can be better and eventually you become it.

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