Earlier this year, there was a casting call for extras to be in Anna & Anna, with the presence of lead actress Karena Lam, and looking at the film, it would have involved being night club revelers in a darkened pub watching local band Ronin perform. This Singapore-Shanghai co-production, written and directed by Aubrey Lam, is surprisingly full of arthouse sensibilities, but with all the wrong reasons in doing so, making this less than 90 minute film feel like a plodding dinosaur, hinging on the acting prowess of Karena Lam and Lu Yi (Jasmine Women, Seven Swords).
Karena plays Anna & Anna, and may I add, & Anna once more. Anna One is an executive with an extreme love for blue eye shadows. A Singaporean sent by her manager (played by TV actor Huang Shi Nan) to Shanghai for work, she finds this an opportunity to rid herself of her wimpy boyfriend, Billy (Tender, whose name befits the character), a band member whose long hair betrays his effeminate nature. Here's an alpha-female in a power suit, but inside, she's still nursing a longing for her old flame Ouyang (Lu Yi).
Anna Two happens to be an artist, with a chic short pageboy hairdo (ok, this is to differentiate between the Annas), and surprisingly, is hooked up with Lu Yi's Ouyang. Questions are abound as to timeline, and whether they are the one and the same, or different people who just happen to share the same pretty face. Anna Two's no alpha-female though, and seems to be one who's emotionally tormented by Ouyang, and so begins, the incessant questions of identity that begged to be answered.
The narrative started off promisingly with such possibilities of exploring into doppelgangers, identities, and especially on love, whether we will tend to gravitate towards people of similar characteristics, or in more shallow terms, physical looks (hey, remember the Vaughn-Aniston vehicle The Break Up, and the ending for that?). It set up interesting standoffs such as who's the original, and who's the substitute for the heart, which will probably make for some unconventional romantic story drawing from life experiences. But alas, the movie lost its plot halfway in becoming too schizophrenic for its own good, especially when Karena's Anna One decided to chop her locks off, and the film had to rely on technicalities to cue the audience. What it degenerated to was failure to capitalize on its prince and pauper moments, and became was a woeful reflection of self-pity by all characters, and this without unnecessary meandering through timelines.
Which was actually guilty in trying to introduce and sustain the backstory, and hence my interpretation of the hypothetical Anna Three, which I felt was there just to extrapolate the running time to qualify this as a feature film. Shave away the unnecessary extras and half-baked ideas, and this would have been watchable at the very least. However the actual end result we get is a soulless film with soulless characters that we don't give a hoot about.