Singaporean director Anthony Chen’s new feature The Breaking Ice gently digs into the inner heart of today’s young people in China. Set in an icy winter in a small border town, the film presents a springlike story about the blossoming love, friendship, and cherished feelings among three young people, and how they unexpectedly renovate each other. The film itself is like a vivid metaphor for the reawakening of life that can comfort your tired heart.

★★★★☆ 4/5

Before The Breaking Ice, the features directed by Anthony Chen are mainly set in Singapore. There is another film by Anthony, Drift, set in a summer in Greece. Stories happened in wet and summary whether and landscape shaped his career before The Breaking Ice. So I was slightly worried about this wintery film in the first place.

But the film turns out to be a big surprise. The stories that happened in that frosty winter were beautifully told.

The story is about three ordinary young people. The girl Nana (starring Dongyu Zhou) and her friend Xiao (starring Chuxiao Qu) have been living in this remote town, Yanbian, for years. Nana is a tourist guide working for a small travel agency. Xiao works in his unties’ restaurant that mainly serves the tourists brought by Nana. Another young man, Haofeng (starring Haoran Liu), is visiting this town to attend his friend’s wedding. Haofeng seems suffering from depression. Nothing in the wedding interested him. He then decided to run away from the ceremony and joined this random trip guided by Nana.

They have completely different lives that share one similarity —— they don’t love it. Nana moved here to run away from her past. Xiao moved here just because his untie offered him a job running errands for the restaurant. Haofeng, who looks like a successful young professional, works in finance in Shanghai but hates his life wholeheartedly.

Meaninglessness but still wandering overlaps their living situation. But they handle it differently. Nana hides the pain behind her smile, so people would first think that she is passionate about her life. Xiao thinks that living here or there makes no difference as long as he feels alright. Haofeng, sadly, carried too much upon his shoulder and was eventually crushed by it.

The film successfully sketches three typical, ordinary young people. They look just like somebody around you. Some with stories they never tell; some look cool but you don’t really know what they want; some are already too tired in their life but don’t know how to fix it. Something is frozen underneath their young body.

The intimate love and friendship among them silently changed these three young people. You will gently walk into that white, frosty winter, feeling something slowly awakened from their hearts.

Chen developed their story gently, telling it with a mild flow. Following their eyes, you experience everything together with them. You will see how young people entertain themselves in a small town in Northern China, and then go on a trip around this border town doing stupid things. You will then go on a long journey to a snow mountain, where a miracle happens, saves Haofeng’s life and cures Nana’s pain. Complements with its warm-current-like scores, the film presents the sense of reawakening more lively.

The film itself organically composes a vivid metaphor comforting the tired souls. Looking into the living situation of today’s young people in China, tiresome, high-pressure workloads and never-ending competitions have corroded their young hearts. “Lie down”, said Haofeng in the film, referring to a state that giving up competing oneself in the fast-paced society, has become a collective requirement of them. The film sends out a simple yet kind message that may touch everyone struggling in the cold and darkness.

It is okay to be normal. It is okay to cry.