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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 05.05.17] China scifi drama

Fifteen minutes into The End of the Lonely Island, I nearly gave up on the movie. I simply couldn't follow what was happening. A man and a woman are walking on a deserted island. He's telling her about his time spent there as a child and partway through his story, the movie flashes forward to the same woman on the same island but apparently years later. She's talking to someone in an earpiece and trying to find something on the island as quickly as possible but there's no indication of what she's looking for but more importantly, why she's in such a hurry to find it.

The two stories don't seem connected and what's more, there's no indication of why they're important. We know nothing about any of the characters and yet... there's something compelling about the story. In truth, the slim 60 minute running time is what kept me with it for most of the first act and boy am I glad I did.

Ren Chao Wang's feature film debut doesn't feel like the work of a first time filmmaker. Its scope is large, the story is dense with detail but perhaps most impressive is Wang's brilliant handle on how the story unfolds. The first 30 minutes of The End of the Lonely Island feel like a disconnected series of moments that are happening to the characters but almost exactly halfway in, Wang begins to weave the various stories together, filling gaps and eventually bringing the movie together into a satisfying conclusion.

Along the way, he poses some interesting ideas about AI, humanity's ability to survive, relationships, space travel and ultimately, explores the concept of how far one would go in order to save humanity. Any one of those ideas would be enough to sustain a movie but Wang manages to cram them all into an hour and it doesn't feel rushed.

Actress XI Liao is tasked with being our guide through the lofty ideas of the movie and she does a fantastic job of keeping the audience engaged; particularly in the opening act when so little of the story makes sense.

The End of the Lonely Island is a challenging watch. Wang throws around a lot of ideas and crams a lot of story into the movie (it also doesn't help that there are a lot of subtitles and in parts it's difficult to keep up with the dialogue) but the fact that it's so short also means it lends itself beautifully to repeat viewings and I found I liked it, even more, the second time around.

If Wang was making movies in the US, Hollywood would be knocking down his door. I expect it's only a matter of time before he steps up to bigger projects. I certainly can't wait to see what he does next.

Sci-Fi London Film Festival 2017 runs from April 27 to May 6.

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Genius (5 years ago) Reply

I must see this!
and Hollywood honestly you still believe that crap?
When a Producer Director has a film and they get Hollywood knocking on their door what happens? Do They get to Make their Film? No they do not the Studio decides on how that film is going to go it's their money after all.

As for this movie I need to see it!

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