From ILO ILO to his latest film, The Breaking Ice, marks Anthony Chen’s tenth year in the industry and showcases his ability to capture and convey the subtle nuances of everyday emotions. Throughout his career, Chen has demonstrated a talent for depicting ordinary life with delicacy and a slow, flowing pace, and this film is no exception. In The Breaking Ice, each character grapples with their own personal struggles and insecurities, seeking solace and understanding in the company of one another. As their paths intertwine, the film explores themes of identity, acceptance, and the transformative power of human connection.
Chen’s strength lies in his adeptness at capturing the ebb and flow of emotions, carefully observing the subtle changes that occur between individuals. Watching The Breaking Ice, one cannot help but draw comparisons to French films like The Dreamer and Jules et Jim, which also explore similar emotional frameworks. However, Chen sets himself apart by delving deep into this emotional current, relying on minute expressions and gestures to convey the restlessness of youth, infused with an oriental sensibility. While the film explores the theme of self-redemption with the three central characters finding solace and redemption in each other’s company, it is important to note that redemption does not erase the bitterness that exists within their lives. Like a sultry tropical rain pouring down on an Ontario winter, the bitterness remains, serving as a reminder of the complexities of their experiences. The Chinese title of the film, Ran Bing, meaning “burning ice,” captures the essence of this oriental emotional expression more effectively than its English translation, The Breaking Ice.