The Breaking Ice by Sara Moccia

Red Carpet at TIFF

In the freezing, quiet city of Yanji, writer and director Anthony Chen creates a bleak universe for Nana, Haofeng, and Xiao – the film’s three main characters who, each facing feelings of isolation and displacement from the world, form a bond in an attempt to melt their hardened, icy exteriors. Chen’s camerawork is perceptive, feeling like a quiet observer happening upon the characters – Haofeng, who stays longer than intended in the city after losing his phone, silently cries in the club while the camera observes from a distance, offering neither comfort nor judgment. After Nana, whom he meets on a bus tour, invites him out with Xiao, a friend who manages a local restaurant, the characters spend a series of flaneur-esque days together, in bookshops and nightclubs, however, the film’s attempts to dig deep into the character’s true feelings are cursory. The film could have achieved a stronger resonance if not for the lack of conclusion for several storylines, such as the revelation that Nana was once a decorated figure skater who has quit for reasons the audience never gets confirmation on.

            Yet, through the stillness of the film’s wintry settings, Chen thrives in depicting the enveloping hush of a snowy landscape where the silence is deafening. All throughout, the unremarkable sound of chewing ice or dial tones becomes impossible to ignore, distracting the viewer from the secrets each character is harbouring, helping the film to maintain its mystery through want of resolution.

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