Bearing the distinction of being the first film shot – at least partly – in Antarctica, Wu You Yin’s Till the End of the World follows Wu Fuchun (Mark Chao), a successful businessman on his way to Antarctica for a bold publicity stunt. On the small plane he chartered is Jing Ruyi (Yang Zishan), a scientist on her way to a polar station to study auroras. But when a snow storm leads the the crash of their plane, Fuchun and Ruyi survive but are left stranded in the immensity of the south pole, with almost no hope of rescue. Though they find shelter in a small cabin with a few supplies, their only hope of salvation is to locate the station to which Ruyi, now immobilized by a leg injury, was headed. With no idea of their location, they decide that Fuchun will venture in all four directions for a few days at a time (at a time of the year when there’s no night), but soon love blossoms between the two survivors.
A very close cousin to Hany Abu-Assad’s The Mountain Between Us and, to a lesser extent, Zhao Hantang’s Seventy-Seven Days, Till the End of the World benefits, like these two films, from the majesty of its inhospitable snowbound landscapes, which are so jaw-dropping that even an episode of The Young and the Restless would achieve some poetic resonance if it were set within them. Wu You Yin’s film is passable as a tale of survival, full of interesting facts about Antarctica (dispensed sometimes so straight-fowardly that the film starts looking like a documentary with a very dramatic voice-over), and dire situations, such as when Fuchun gets stuck in a glacier, or when a passing whale cracks the ice of a frozen lake. But verisimilitude is too often thrown to the polar winds for the film to really be visceral and intense: for example, after running out of air and losing consciousness in frozen water, still manages to awake and swim to the surface.
As a love story, the film is broad but effective: rather than finding hope in love, as in so many romances, Fuchun and Ruyi find love in hope; their romantic feelings seemingly a result of their being alone in this world and determined to survive. Mark Chao’s performance is a teary bid at acting awards but nevertheless compelling in its thoughtless optimism slowly cracking under the weight of fate. Yang Zishan knows tragic love like the back of her hand, and though her character initially feels too dour to be engaging, it soon appears to be simply on a higher level of subtlety than the film itself. If merciless, majestic Antarctica is an obvious metaphor of fate, her mix of strength and resignation (and indeed strength in resignation) is as haunting as its winds. The film sometimes wavers in tone, with cameos by cute penguins and a subplot involving a frozen turd that Fuchun thinks is a meteorite (not kidding), and its final image involving a whale is a bit heavy-handed (heavy-finned ?), while Joe Hisashi’s score is a bit too florid yet mixed too low, to slightly awkward effect. Still, in choosing fate and inevitability over cheap inspiration, it’s a welcome addition to the subgenre of survival love stories.
Long Story Short: Though it sometimes stretches believability and occasionally wavers awkwardly in tone, Till the End of the World is an effective and at times haunting tale of strength and resignation. ***
Review by AsianFilmStrike