The Breaking Ice is the International Feature submission for Singapore. The film takes place in the Northeastern city in China called Yanji, a Korean autonomous prefecture right on the border with North Korea. Haofeng, a successful finance professional from Shanghai, has come to the city for a wedding. Depressed and quite possibly suicidal, as he’s been purposefully missing his appointments at a mental health counselling program, he accidentally spots a charming tour guide named Nana.
He decides to skip the rest of the wedding and joins her tour group where they strike an immediate friendship. Nana is a former professional figure skater who was forced to give up the sport after a career-ending ankle injury. She decided to come to Yanji to start a new life and escape her problems but she’s struggling to make ends meet. She introduces him to Xiao, a high school dropout who moved to Yanji to help his aunt run her restaurant. The trio form an immediate bond with one another after a night of drinking. When Haofeng misses his flight the next day, he decides to stay a little longer to further grow his friendship with his new lost friends.
Haofeng finds his despair to be leavened being amongst these two locals. While being here is only temporary, he is able to express his inner most thoughts about how hard it is to be alive. He shares how he studied hard, and how he worked hard, and how he moved away from his childhood home to Shanghai only to find out that nothing was different. That everything was the same, except he has to now work harder. Nana and Xiao, who themselves are at a road-block in life, are there to heal his mind.
The sad realization for all three of them is that while human connections can make life livable, it is only temporary and that the living must ultimately be done alone. It is vital to find ones own meaning to life. To connect to the immediate world and the beauty all around. To disconnect from all the outside noise that brings one down. To live everyday like it’s a new day, like the first snow of winter. To slow down and to mend the heart.
Like ice when it breaks into smaller pieces, the trio must eventually separate and forge ahead with their new paths in life hopeful that wherever they end up, it ends up being the right place.