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Cities of Last Things does not have end credit scenes.

Cities of Last Things

Cities of Last Things

2019

As the fabric of reality unravels, an ordinary man's life becomes a tapestry of extraordinary events, woven across three eras, seasons, and nights in a single city. Through reverse chronology, this thought-provoking sci-fi drama reveals the protagonist's journey as the boundaries between normalcy and chaos blur.

Runtime: 106 min

By:

Directors:

Genres:

Ratings:

Metacritic

66

Metascore

6.5

User Score

Metacritic
review

81%

TOMATOMETER

review

69%

User Score

Metacritic

6.3 /10

IMDb Rating

Metacritic

66.0

%

User Score

Check out what happened in Cities of Last Things!

As the cinematic canvas unfurls, we find ourselves transported to a dystopian 2056, where the stark reality of mortality is exemplified by an anonymous individual's futile attempt to defy fate, their lifeless body crashing onto the cold, hard pavement below. The narrative then embarks on a poignant and introspective journey, unfolding in reverse chronological order, to chronicle the tumultuous existence of Zhang Dong Ling, whose path ultimately leads him down the treacherous road to self-destruction.

The first act introduces us to a middle-aged Zhang, who bears witness to his wife's compromising dance with another man, triggering a maelstrom of emotions that culminates in a brutal confrontation. Seeking solace in fleeting pleasures, he visits a prostitute and bears mute testimony to the eerie allure of "rejuvenation fluid," which has become an integral part of society's bid for eternal youth. As he departs, he absconds with a firearm from his companion, only to find himself drawn into a labyrinthine exploration of memories long buried.

Zhang's subsequent encounters are marked by an increasing sense of unease and disquiet. He visits another prostitute, Ara (Grinberg), whose presence awakens distant recollections, leaving him grappling with the fragmented nature of his own identity. Disguised as a doctor, he infiltrates the heavily guarded hospital where Minister of Health Shi Zhi-Wen lies in a coma-like state, awakening the latter to exact a grim and unyielding revenge.

As Zhang navigates this surreal world, fragments of his troubled past begin to resurface. He visits his daughter, only to be confronted with the bitter reality of his own failures. His wife's lover presents him with an uncomfortable truth: his wife has found love elsewhere, and he should consider a divorce. The accumulation of these painful revelations culminates in a violent outburst, as Zhang assaults his wife's paramour, leaving him bloodied and battered.

The police, armed with the damning evidence of his wife's recorded memories, trace the trail of destruction back to Zhang, who now finds himself pursued by the relentless drone of authority. In a desperate bid for freedom, he shoots down the pursuing aircraft, only to surrender to the inevitable, flinging himself from the window in a futile attempt to escape the crushing weight of his own despair.

As Zhang's youthful idealism begins to wane, the once-bright beacon of justice is dimmed by a jarring reality check. His fateful arrest of Ara (Grinberg) for shoplifting marks the start of a downward spiral that will leave him reeling. A seemingly routine shift at the precinct takes an unexpected turn when his partner grants him a brief respite to surprise his wife with a cake, only to have Zhang's world shattered by the discovery of his superior, Shi Zhi-Wen (character not specified), in a compromising position with his own wife. The pent-up rage and anguish boil over as Zhang confronts Zhi-Wen, only to be overpowered and sent scurrying back to the station.

The aftermath is a blur of tormenting visions and crippling despair, as Zhang's sense of self-worth begins to disintegrate like sand between his fingers. A desperate attempt at self-destruction is foiled, but he finds an outlet for his pent-up emotions by raiding Zhi-Wen's locker and scattering the dirty money throughout the station.

As fate would have it, Zhang's path crosses Ara's once more, this time in a chance encounter that sparks a series of events that will forever alter their lives. Instead of arresting her, he elects to pay for the pilfered goods, an act of quiet defiance that hints at the turmoil brewing beneath his surface.

However, Zhi-Wen is not one to let sleeping dogs lie, and Zhang soon finds himself on the receiving end of a brutal beating at the hands of his superior. As he nurses his wounds, he turns to Ara for solace, and their mutual despair gives way to a fleeting sense of hope as they contemplate fleeing their troubles together.

But the law is not so easily fooled, and when Zhang returns to work, he's greeted with a stern warning: six months in jail await him, courtesy of his own misdeeds. The weight of his transgressions settles upon him like a shroud, extinguishing what little light remains. As he's hauled away, Zhi-Wen's parting shot – a sneer that promises to take good care of Zhang's wife while he's away – hangs in the air like a threat, leaving the audience wondering if Ara will ever again be within his grasp.

As the narrative unfolds, we find ourselves transported to a pivotal moment in Zhang's formative years, where he finds himself in possession of a pilfered scooter. In a thrilling sequence, Zhang's desperate attempts to evade capture lead him to an unexpected collision with Big Sister Wang, who is also fleeing from the authorities. Unbeknownst to them, their chance encounter sets in motion a chain of events that will forever alter the trajectory of their lives.

As Zhang is processed for his actions, he strikes up a conversation with Wang, and it becomes apparent that they share a connection that transcends their current circumstances. Wang's piercing gaze seems to bore into Zhang's very soul as she reveals her intimate knowledge of his grandmother, predating his own existence by several generations. This sudden revelation sparks a poignant exchange between the two, as Zhang confesses his deep-seated anger and sorrow towards his mother, who abandoned him in his youth.

As Wang is about to be taken away by the authorities, she takes Zhang's hand and imparts words of wisdom, urging him to forgive his mother for her past transgressions. However, Zhang remains resolute, refusing to grant his mother absolution. The officer's subsequent inquiry as to whether he will eventually forgive his mother serves only to further emphasize the depth of their emotional chasm.

In a heart-wrenching conclusion, Wang's parting words - "Be a good person, don't end up like me" - serve as a poignant reminder of the consequences of her choices. As she is whisked away by the authorities, a sense of foreboding settles over Zhang, foreshadowing the tragic events that will soon unfold.

In a shocking turn of events, Wang's life is cut short in a hail of gunfire as a motorcycle roars to life and its passenger opens fire on her. The film concludes with a haunting tableau: a young child sitting on a swing, cradled by the very woman whose story has unfolded before our eyes - a poignant reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope for redemption and renewal.