Anthony Chen’s The Breaking Ice introduces a visually captivating yet imperfect journey through the states of matter – ice, water, and steam. The film extends an invitation for reflection on the nature of human existence through the intimacy shared by its main characters: Haofeng, Nana and Xiao.
Haofeng, a young man embodying the rigors of traditional Asian upbringing, mirrors a profound depression through his disciplined but bitter approach to life, akin to solid ice – a life frozen in despair. As the narrative unfolds, with the understanding and affection they have for each other, the narrative melts and transitions into the realm of water. Nana emerges as the symbol of fluidity and resilience, having once been a promising figure skater. Her ability to adapt gracefully to life’s unexpected twists, including bidding farewell to her dreams due to an injury, serves as an embodiment of human strength. The film delves into the theme of unfulfilled passions and dreams through Xiao as well. Working in a restaurant, Xiao represents those who have never had the opportunity to pursue their aspirations or who have never even thought of them. His experimental brush with self-inflicted risks signifies a phase of transition, much like molecules of gas, shifting from a fixed state to one of movement and liberation.
The Breaking Ice emerges as a partial mirror of the lost human, embracing its own imperfections as a storytelling canvas, which may make perfect individuals struggle to comprehend its sincerity. Despite some narrative hiccups and derivative references to the French New Wave, the film is a visual feast with commendable performances, cast chemistry, and thoughtfully crafted soundscapes keeping things grounded, leaving an ice burn on the audience’s chest.