The End Of The Lonely Island REVIEW
Writer/director: Ren Chao Wang
Starring: XI Liao, Duo Duo Tian and Ren Chao Wang
Lin Xia is a scientist on the run. She has 24 hours to save the Earth and, guided by a mysterious benefactor, makes a run for a small island as the world collapses around her. The island is vital, not just to her mission but to her past, her love for astronaut Zhi Yuan and the future of everything…
Ren Chao Wang’s movie is 60 minutes long and in that time covers the singularity, Artificial Intelligence, predicting the future, global viral apocalypse, true love and the collision between popular science and necessary science. Amazingly, it gives each a surprising amount of exploration and screen time.
Using a combination of found footage style documentary techniques and talking heads, the movie focuses in on one woman as a lens to explore massive global changes through. It’s a quiet, intimate story that uses that scale to surprise you time and again with massive scale and impact. A city-wide blackout, the northern lights dancing above the streets is haunting. The opening, which shifts from ocean to stars to lead character Lin Xia dragging a dead man out of his car, is flat-out astonishing. There are four distinct gear shifts in the scene, each of which serves the plot, sets the movie up and sets the tone.
Better still, the film continually unpacks itself. As we flash between a dying Lin Xia trying to complete her mission and the past leading up to that moment we get several twists you never see coming. They all make perfect sense too and this feels like one of the most measured, well-crafted scripts SF movies have produced in a very long time.
XI Liao is on screen for pretty much the entire hour and the movie is carried on her shoulders. She’s a focused screen presence with natural authority who takes us through the full spectrum of Lin Xia’s emotions. The scientist is complicated, self-centred, selfless and brilliant in a way that feels unflashy and thoroughly earned. She’s more Ellie Arroway than Ellen Ripley and her quiet, calm, passionate performance holds the movie together.
Wong’s direction is great too, mixing handheld shots with natural locations and subtly worked special effects. This both is and isn’t our world, convincingly real and quietly fantastic. The script also impresses, especially the ending. Ambiguous in a way that still offers closure its reminiscent of Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia albeit with noticeably more hope and space travel.
The End Of The Lonely Island isn’t perfect. Its pacing is a little too deliberate in the second act and there’s a distinct lack of urgency in places. But in the end that doesn’t matter. What does is that this is a fiercely ambitious film that achiever every single one of its seemingly impossible challenges. Much like its determined, steely heroine.