The Breaking Ice by Madeline Mansell

Life is unpredictable; we can never truly know who will waltz into our lives next, and how they might change the trajectory of it forever. In Anthony Chen’s quiet and cold drama, The Breaking Ice, he observes three young people as they merge into each other’s lives and question childhood memories, present relationships, and the possibilities of the future.

Though the film takes place during winter in Yanji, a frozen border city in China, Chen’s use of warm visuals makes the film feel like a summer coming-of-age flick, akin to The Virgin Suicides or Call Me by Your Name. Namely, there are a handful of mesmerizing, motionless birds-eye-view shots throughout the film that help put the characters into perspective, reminding us how isolated they are, only needing one another for comfort. Another aspect I loved was how sound was used in the film; every crunchy step in the snow, or sip of a drink is amplified, creating a deeply immersive feeling that at certain points gave me goosebumps.

Aside from the thoughtful shot composition and audio, Chen not-so-subtly displays how Haofeng, Nana, and Xiao defrost their own internal coldness through the connections they make romantically and platonically during a weekend of drinking and exploring.  The budding relationship of our three twenty-somethings is constantly portrayed through the frozen mountains, which represent the vastness and unknowns of their respective futures. This is an interesting analogy but gets a little tired as we continue to see multiple different references to ice, mountains and snow for the entire runtime (even choosing to name a brand of shaving cream after the mountains). With crisp sound design, mesmerising visuals, and realistic characters, Anthony Chen creates a wintry drama that will surely capture the icy hearts of many.

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