WHAT IT’S ABOUT: In the nearest future, Earth relies on the sun for all its energy, with Helios, a Chinese energy company, running the game. Sun Yang is an amateur astronomer and recluse who relies on his AI assistant for companionship. He makes a prediction based on his observation of the unusual behavior of the megastars: the Sun’s days are numbered. And when this prediction becomes a reality, Sun Yang is stuck with Chen Mu, his outgoing but clueless neighbor. The two are headed for the lair of Helios’s enigmatic head, Wang Yun, where they think answers must await. However, it turns out that even the energy honcho is resigned to humanity’s fate. Sun Yang and Chen Mu have to try to make it in the doomed world on their own.
WHO MADE IT: Wen Ren is a Chinese-American filmmaker who has been relentlessly making short films in preparation for his feature debut with “Last Sunrise.” He co-wrote the film with Elly Li, Yankang Mei, and Min Yu. Cinematography is courtesy of Matthias Delvaux, who is currently a relative beginner, too. But he will likely go far: he’s really good at atmospheric, heartrending scenes that should be in demand. The actors in leading roles, Zhang Jue and Zhang Yue, are newcomers, too, but I’m hoping to see them in more films.
WHY DO WE CARE: I’m not a fan of doomsday sci-fi, because it doesn’t always stack up. And my beef with CGI is that it overpowers human stories without delivering something truly sublime most of the time. However, I loved “Last Sunrise” with all my heart. Its secret is that just like “The Walking Dead,” it’s centered around the very fundamental human aspect of post-apocalyptic survival. Meanwhile, the inflated notions of the planet’s impending demise, which only get less believable with embellishment, are masterfully subdued. As we watch Sun Yang and Chen Mu try in vain to find refuge in the increasingly cooling surroundings, we also learn about the circumstances of their lives before the catastrophe. And this makes the story boil down to the one contemporary truth. We’re a deeply flawed species who don’t know what’s essential for us until it’s too late, be it in environmental issues or personal lives.
WHY YOU NEED TO WATCH: “Last Sunrise” is very watchable and has the best of many genres in it. This film will deliver, whether you’re into unraveling romance or human stories that unfold in complex ways; whether you like seeing drastically different characters clash or are just looking for some doomsday thrill. And despite being filmed and set in China, “Last Sunrise” is a universal human story that could easily happen anywhere. Perhaps this is because the director is American-Chinese, or because the setting is more of an amalgamated solar dystopia than a particular place in time. However, this universal applicability doesn’t mean that the films’ themes lose their depth in connection to the real world. The solar company, even though it’s only detailed in the first part of the film, is a witty satire on today’s tech companies awaiting singularity. Or eco opportunities, whatever comes first. Sun Yang and Chen Mu are very clearly two examples of humans of late capitalism. One is sheltered as to virtually lose all connection with the society around him, and the other so hooked into the society that she’s fallen out of touch with her own self. Wen Ren has a fascinating aptitude for capturing the dystopian nuance, and “Last Sunrise” marks the arrival of international new talent. Who will, hopefully, find bigger budgets and more sweeping projects soon enough. After all, if he managed to handle a planet on the brink of extinction, he’ll be able to handle anything.
Last Sunrise (Zui Hao De Ri Chu), 2019
Director: Wen Ren
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