‘The Breaking Ice’ at Jio MAMI 2023: Three Scenes in the Anthony Chen Movie That Will Leave You in Awe

Published 11/04/2023, 11:43 AM EDT

When depression hits you, it’s like breaking a block of ice. The fissures and cracks appear first, turning you melancholic. Then, as the pressure increases, the first break happens, followed by the rest. Anthony Chen’s The Breaking Ice ( 燃冬) picks up its three central characters in the latter stages when they are close to a breakdown and more. Spanning over a weekend, the romantic drama sets up a narrative that will leave you reflecting and relating Nana, Haofeng, and Han Xiao’s journeys.

The highlights of the movie that screened at the Jio MAMI Film Festival 2023, however, are a handful of scenes that show the core of its themes.

Disclaimer: Major spoilers ahead

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Three standout scenes in The Breaking Ice

Selected for the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Festival 2023, Chen’s movie is as non-traditional as it gets. Without the cliched cheerful person saving the depressed one or excessive substance abuse, The Breaking Ice skillfully captures the essence of depression in three different aspects. With Nana, it’s an incident that ended her Ballerina Career. For Haofeng, it’s nothing in particular because sometimes a chemical imbalance in your brain is enough to pull you down. In Han Xiao’s case, it is feeling stuck in life—something many can relate to.

With such nuanced storytelling, it is difficult to cherry-pick any one standout scene from the movie that defines it. But the following three are the best part of the film.

There is no one way of experiencing depression; there are at least three ways. Chen’s The Breaking Ice showcases these three in its nightclub scene. After missing his flight back home, Haofeng (Liu Haoran) decides to hang out with Nana (Zhou Dongyu), and Han Xiao (Qu Chuxiao) for the weekend. The trio hit a local nightclub where soon, Nana and Han Xiao start dancing, leaving Haofeng alone at the table.

For the next few minutes, we see three different responses to a low point in the depression journey through the central character. Having stayed back at the table, not wanting to dance, Haofeng starts chewing ice, as he usually does before letting the droplets from the ice drop onto his face. He soon breaks down amidst the crowd that is having a fun time dancing.

Meanwhile, Nana has numbed her feelings and is surrendering to music to escape the thoughts, memories, and regrets that haunt her. It is not unlike people who would rather stay numb than feel their feelings at their lowest. Han Xiao, on the other hand, represents those who decide to take charge and follow their heart’s desire: In his case, that was trying to kiss Nana, for whom he held a torch for years.

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Not only is this scene framed perfectly, but the mood set by it will hit you like a wrecking ball.

A suicidal Haofeng has envisioned killing himself multiple times during the runtime of the show. So his intentions were pretty clear when he requested to see Heaven Lake atop the Baekdu Mountain: He wanted to jump off the peak. Failing to reach the peak, he tries to jump off a cliff on the way. What stops him is Han Xiao screaming out for Nana’s safety. When Haofeng reaches the scene, he sees Nana standing still as a giant bear walks up to the trio. 

While they feared for their lives, the bear gently nuzzled against Nana and rubbed its nose against the gash on her ankle—something tied to her painful past. Something breaks in her seeing the compassion shown by the animal and she starts breaking down. A major brownie point for this scene is the cinematography itself, with the frames looking ever so beautiful. 

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But the highlight is the emotional turning point. The moment ends up being for all three characters, as we later see in the final minutes of the movie.

As with any normal final act, The Breaking Ice’s final minutes draw to a close each of its three character’s stories. There is no miracle cure for Nana and Haofeng as a result of their whirlwind romance, and neither is there a delayed realization of feelings between Nana and Han Xiao. Instead, you get an ending that is as realistic as it gets about the depression cycle: Baby steps to work through the trauma.

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For Haofeng, who was always wound up in himself and ready to kill himself, the final act was about finding the strength to be vulnerable. This is visible in the way he and Nana have a tender moment in the shower. Meanwhile, for Nana, who was constantly pushing people away, the end was an attempt at reconnecting with her estranged family. Han Xiao, on the other hand, like in the club scene, decided to take charge and set out to live the life he dreamed of by leaving Yang City.

Final take

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Jio MAMI 2023 had over 200+ movie screenings with some like Monster showing the importance of perspective and others leaving you in tears. But The Breaking Ice is different from them all. In a world teeming with works talking about depression and mental health, Anthony Chen’s film stands out for its subtle realism in the backdrop of a fun weekend and picturesque Yanji City. It is a movie cinephiles should not avoid when Strand Releasing releases it in North America in late 2023 or early 2024.

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Parvathi Ajith

33 articles

Parvathi Ajith is a Hollywood news reporter and Editor at Netflix Junkie. So much is her love for reporting that she started her journey with an internship at New Indian Express where she covered all the hot news of the entertainment industry. With her prior experience of being an editor, she aims to do interviews and reviews here in NJ.

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