The Breaking Ice by Billie Anderson

Loneliness is a prison that we all yearn to escape—or accept. The Breaking Ice asks the question: how do you find yourself after life leaves you behind? What if your dreams fail you? Maybe you find all the success you desire, and it’s still not enough, what then?  

TIFF Note book in forefront with large cinema screen with TIFF logo in background

The Breaking Ice follows three emotionally and psychologically lost twenty-somethings in Yanji, a Chinese city on the northern border next to the Korean frontier. Perpetually shrouded in white snow, desolation reigns supreme, and few can escape the ennui permeating the air. Audiences observe their conjoined solitary journeys through idyllic, postcard-worthy locales, as they each fight the desire to commit to ending their lives—the only thing any of them have ever committed to.  

Alone, each character exudes emotional coldness and isolation, seemingly bearing their suffering in solitude. However, The Breaking Ice manages to foster a profound sense of belonging among them, largely owing to the remarkable onscreen chemistry of the three lead actors. There is no need for deep philosophical debate or conversation–only connection and being reminded of the euphoria of being alive. This film subtly but powerfully emphasizes the transformative potential of genuine human connections in the face of profound emotional isolation. 

When it ends, and everyone goes their way as it must be, audiences are left with the sureness that, while still alone, each of the lovers is changed somehow, even with the uncertainty if after the narrative each character will accept or permanently escape their loneliness. 

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