Making its debut at two international film festivals last December, Wee Li Lin's second directorial effort, Forever, comes home this week, adding itself to the limited romantic comedy sub-genre of a chick flick coming out of Singapore. I thought it more to be a tragedy though, considering the episodes revolving around a bizarre love triangle of a New Order proportion, of a woman so delusional and scheming, it's Fatal Attraction done Singapore style sans sex and violence, hitting home through its plenty of identifiable subversive elements, and made all the more terrifying when you learn the antagonist is inspired from someone who actually exist. Oh the horror!
Joanna Dong plays Joey, a high flying executive in what seems to be an amalgamation of all the quasi-government matchmaking agencies here known as the Wedding Education Department (WED), responsible for churning out propaganda videos to show how the Singapore Plan of getting married at the right age at the right time is nothing but leading to eternal bliss (and in fact Li Lin does put us through this in the opening scene!). Little does her boss (Alice Lim) realize that her blue-eyed staff Joey is a closet sociopath whose wardrobe is blue-centric, living in a world of her own after getting smitten during her video making encounter with GIn (Mo Tzu Yi), a music scholar from Taiwan teaching in a local school, where they star as a just-married couple in bridal regalia in a national advertisement.
So begins an obsession stalking of her prey, very adamant in thinking that he IS the man of her dreams, in essence blurring that line between reality and fantasy, made worse by that goosebump raising moments each time they call each other "Groomie" or "Bridey", with one party taking it a lot more seriously and emotionally than the other. We shift into second gear when Joey realizes Gin is engaged to the rich lass Cecilia (Sarah Ng), who too realizes the existence of that propaganda video involving her fiance, so all hell breaks loose with claws unsheathed to inflict serious damage to snag the man they both love. Some guys would love this kind of attention, but to go overboard here like what Joey does, is certainly very creepy, enough to block a phone number after an insane proclamation of love.
Forever doesn't look as lush as the director's first feature film Gone Shopping, with its fairy tale like moments, rich colours and who-can-resist upmarket fashion in the malls featured. but seemed a little bit more subdued deliberately to fit a narrative which is a little darker in mood and tone, with clean fun clearly being poked at the authorities that be involved with fussing over dwindling national statistics - in today's world the hot button item is of course the tumbling birth rates - and their goal to see that the status quo be maintained by hitting the usual targets set, so that work life can be coasted through with little trouble or question. It's no surprise that most of the more comical moments come from the WED scenes and their disastrous mass activities for eligible singles (I smell spin off), and I was secretly hoping there would be more coming from these supporting characters, especially on the number of sight gags that never fail to crack me up!
The revelation in Forever undeniably belongs to the lead actress Joanna Dong, who is at perfect ease playing that sweet innocent young thing who truly believes in her shot at true love, and that schemer with a glint in her eye, buried beneath her non-threatening demeanour. Her performance can make you laugh at, and cry for at the same time, eliciting sympathy for her hopelessly romantic plight, yet you hiss at her when you see through her true colours revealed. Really the two-faced chameleon in the film where you'd just about want to slap her for her lack of that feminine backbone, yet take pity on her really clueless behaviour in not knowing when to call it quits, and have to succumb to her compulsions of, check this out, serenading outside a window at the wee hours of the night. Dong proves her versatility as well in lending her vocals for the songs featured in the film.
It's no surprise that you'll probably have plenty of fun from the various little commentaries pointed at our society pop up every now and then, ribbing anything from public sector mentalities, caricatures from the school of office politics whom you'll come across at one point or another in life, and behavioral traits that probably had irked screenwriters Li Lin and Silvia Wong, who also serves as producer, to feature as passing remarks foreigners make about locals being negative influencers.
Wee Li Lin may only be two feature films old, but already some signatures begin to show, such as those inevitable moments where snow (or confetti in this case) has to pepper picturesque lip-locking scenes in a fairy tale landscape, theme of unhealthy obsessions, and a look at the darker side what and how conditioning had damaged the Singapore psyche, of characters being stuck in and trying to break out of an unhappy course in life. This is a thinking chick flick marked by a remarkable lead actress, and it'll be interesting to see how Li Lin continues to expand her filmography from here. Recommended!