A diffident everyman battles loneliness and despair only to become a selfless sacrifice for a world that left him behind in the latest film from the Mahua FunAge gang, Moon Man (独行月球, Dúxíng Yuèqiú). Not quite the raucous comedy that Mahua FunAge has become known for with popular hits Never Say Die and Hello, Mrs. Money, Moon Man is a more contemplative affair adapted from a South Korean manhwa by Cho Seok and equal parts absurdist exploration of the human condition and cathartic post-pandemic dramedy that insists there is always a homecoming in one way or another.
Yue Dugu (Shen Teng) is proud to refer to himself as a “middle man” in that he has deliberately cultivated the image of Mr. Average in an intense attempt never to stand out from the crowd. On applying for an engineering job on a space programme he’s told the position has been filled but there’s an opening in maintenance. Yue didn’t really want to take it but does, as we later learn, after falling in love at first sight with Xing (Ma Li), the commander of a mission set to save the Earth from a meteor strike some years in the future. Being the kind of guy he is, Yue never makes an attempt to get close to her but thinks his chance has finally come when the mission is concluded successfully though Xing doesn’t appear to even know he exists. He decides to write a long love letter while listening to romantic music and consequently misses all of the alarms alerting him to the fact that something has gone very wrong, the mission is being aborted, and they all need to evacuate as soon as possible. Left behind as the rockets take off he can only look on in horror as a meteor strikes the Earth leading him to believe he is the sole survivor of the human race.
Of course, that turns out not quite to be the truth. What starts out as Robinson Crusoe quickly becomes The Truman Show as Xing, who has found safe refuge on a nearby space base, realises someone was left behind and plans to livestream their daily life to give hope to the survivors on Earth who are now living a dismal post-apocalyptic existence underground. Recruiting a former live-streaming king, they try to set Yue up as an idealised propaganda hero but, as they are unable to communicate with him, Yue still thinks he’s the last of his kind and his behaviour cannot really be called inspirational seeing as he spends most of his time trying to crack the code to enter Xing’s quarters and having dinner with a mannequin he’s pasted her face on. Meanwhile, he’s also discovered that he’s not quite as alone as he thought but is trapped with a very angry kangaroo left behind by a research team.
Yue was a lonely man before, but begins to experience true despair while quite literally alone on the moon wondering what the point of his life is especially if, as he assumes, Xing is no longer in this world. He contemplates suicide and then, after hearing radio static and coming to believe there may be someone else out there comes into his own trying to plot his escape by thinking outside of the box and proving himself a talented scientist. Struck again by despair he realises that cure for loneliness is knowing there’s someone there to keep the light on for you to guide you home only to see the Earth light up with a message intended to read “you are not alone” but which accidentally reads “you are no one” reinforcing Yue’s everyman status as a middle of the road guy who shouldered the burden that was handed to him and set out to save the world all while locked outside of it.
Yue’s accidental heroism begins to soften Xing’s austerity as she gradually falls for this “awkward” man, while he learns to step up to the plate to protect her and the rest of humanity all of which lends hope to those trapped in the bowels of the Earth and encourages them to begin rebuilding even if at great personal cost. Shifting into Armageddon territory, it’s a nobody who finally saves the world in a final act of selfless heroism. Over the past few years, many may have felt as if they were alone on the moon or found themselves trying to parse grief on a mass scale while mourning the world they knew which had been so abruptly taken from them. Yet as the final title card puts it, the universe is vast, “we will meet again” and there will always be a homecoming in one way or another. Boasting excellent production values including some adorable animated sequences, Moon Man is a strangely cathartic experience filled with zany humour but also genuine hope for brighter future on the other side of the darkness.
Moon Man is in UK cinemas now.
Original trailer (Simplified Chinese subtitles only)