Brie is a single young woman living in modern Los Angeles. She is trying to embrace solitude and find contentment on her own, taking pleasure in small things and her own company. Proud and independent, she proclaims her “practice of loneliness” will help her achieve her “highest self.”
But she still finds herself drawn to Allen, who may not be her type but still gives her understanding and even intimacy. Ambivalent about her emotional desires and her own attraction to Allen, she finds herself making rules for her life, breaking them as she keeps gravitating towards her paramour, and putting her in a place to discover her own truth.
Writer-director Ester Song Kim’s stylish confection of an anti-romantic comedy is equal parts playful irony and unabashed romanticism, making for a slyly crafted examination of the contradictions of modern emotional life. Brie approaches her life with a sense of what a self-help guru may perhaps call “intentionality,” fashioning her aloneness and romantic status into a lifestyle and even a mindfulness or spiritual commitment.
But, despite her rationalizations and justifications, Brie still yearns for connection, and lead performer Rebecca Hoobler offers a subtle, captivating performance that vacillates between the poles of self-sufficiency and vulnerability. Eventually, though, she must make the choice to embrace honesty, and that transition is handled by the film with great wit and knowingness.
Brie as a character may state that she wants solitude, but the film itself has both a wistful sense of melancholy and a whimsical self-reflective humor — a combination that is both studied and romantic. Resembling the stylishly insouciant films of the French New Wave, particularly by Agnes Varda and Eric Rohmer, the short is notably filmed in Super-8mm. The analog texture of the grain and the beautifully worn colors hint at Brie’s romanticization of her own life (and seem startlingly sensuous in the age of crisp, stark HD video). Dashes of Francophone pop songs and a voiceover in French in the sound design also add to the sense of playful, winking homage, but also hint at Brie’s tendency to remain at a distance not only with Allen, but with herself.
In an age where the self is seen as a project of constant self-improvement, “The Practice of Loneliness” is both a funny comment on the idea of shaping our interior lives through the application of rationality and logic — and how those also can’t quite control who you’re attracted to or love. Underneath the detached intellect and aesthetic nostalgia, the film also a sweet love story about being honest with yourself, cultivating contentment with what you have and being open to what life offers to you.