Directed and based on a story by Wen Ren (Cafe Glass, Parallel Tracks), the core conceit of Last Sunrise is both a clever and somewhat horrific one. In a world that is almost entirely reliant on solar energy, the sun has started to behave oddly, flickering randomly in the sky until, suddenly, it vanishes and the world is plunged into darkness. It was noted, just before the sun went poof, that there were readings that suggested a wormhole had appeared inside the sun. Someone, or something, stole the sun. Perhaps not only for its energy, but also to destroy any civilisations on the worlds around it. Talk about a scorched earth policy, or in this case a frozen earth. It’s a terrifying way to make war, giving your opponents no real chance to react.
In this new world of darkness the two main characters must try to find a place to survive as the temperatures drop and the air begins to run out as the plants wither and die in the freezing temperatures. The leads are Chen Mu (Zhang Yue), a socially awkward and borderline obsessive amateur astronomer, and his upbeat neighbour Sun Yang (Zhang Zue). The story revolves around their growing relationship and increasing dependence on each other in the face of what appears to be the end of the world.
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Last Sunrise was made with a budget of around $250,000 and that was money well spent. The film is well shot, with many breathtaking scenes of the night sky, entirely clear now there are no lights to pollute it. The special effects are subtle, and enhance the film without being jarring. For a story about the end of the world, Last Sunrise is a gentle and thoughtful ride for the most part, the only threats coming from other people desperate to ensure their own survival by any means necessary. This is not a world where kindness is returned with kindness.
The only major gripe here is the ending. It honestly feels rushed, the denouement coming in the form of a voiceover while the camera pulls back, which may leave a viewer unsatisfied. A lack of time, budget, equipment, who knows, but it does slightly spoil what had been an otherwise very engaging story.
Ending aside, Last Sunrise is an interesting addition to the ‘end of the world’ genre of movies, with solid performances from the two leads who have good chemistry together; the slow evolution of their relationship feeling believable and organic. Fans of the end times should give this film a look.