Yuanfang, returning from Shanghai to the western small town, eventually resigned herself to fate and followed her father's arrangement from many years ago, becoming a nighttime highway toll collector. The remote toll booth appeared desolate and quiet on those silent nights. One day, a mysterious space return capsule appeared near the toll booth. This metallic sphere seemed to have descended from the heavens and was concealed among the wild grasses. It became a shelter for Yuanfang and her coworker, Dali, where they passed their evenings and secretly plotted their escape from the small town.
In the even more desolate western wilderness,Yuanfang's father, Old Han, was assigned the role of a guide, accompanying a naive Russian youth who claimed to be a scientist named Andreyev in the search for the lost return capsule. The two men, one old and one young, wandered in the realm of empty hope.
"I guess that what's not visible in a movie might be more intriguing than the visible story."
When I drove through the desolate western regions of China in the harsh winter on several occasions, every time night fell and I passed by the highway toll booths, the lonely waiting toll booth operators always caught my attention. They would scrutinize me, a stranger passing by, sneak a listen to the music in my car, and then bid farewell, almost as if it could be a forever farewell. They were among the loneliest people I had ever seen, as if abandoned by the world. I guessed that in the cover of night, some of them harbored dreams of embarking on a journey with a stranger driver, escaping together.
As I continued on the pitch-black roads, I imagined that high above in the vast expanse of space, a former Soviet cosmonaut was finishing his last sip of strong liquor and preparing to take action. He had been forgotten in the frigid space station for a full thirty years. I envisioned his longing for a heroic return, although the homeland he once cherished no longer existed.
The inspiration for this film comes from these scenes and imaginations. It focuses on people trapped in the corners, forgotten by the new era, and those who yearn to return or escape, longing for their souls to witness miracles as promised before daybreak.