Written and directed by Wee Li Lin
Produced by Fazilah Zainol Abideen
Running time: 100 minutes
To be released 26 July 2007
In a nutshell
A satirical about three Singaporeans — a lonely socialite, a lost and forgotten Indian child, and a disillusioned, dissatisfied corporate executive — and their misadventures in various shopping malls.
On the surface, watching Gone Shopping is a little like people-watching while strolling along Singapore’s Orchard Road. The pace is slow and the objective at first seems unclear. But if you look more closely, you might see, and maybe even be alarmed by, some of the disturbing things that happen within the walls of these shopping malls. Just a window shopping experience presents with myriad variety, in Gone Shopping we have three disparate stories, each helmed by a particular character.Clara (played by Kym Ng) is a socialite, always dressed to the nines, who hits the expensive boutiques whenever she feels a twitch of loneliness. Her old schoolmate Valentine (played by Adrian Pang) turns up when this damsel falls into distress, igniting Clara’s hopes of love. Elsewhere in the shopping mall, we meet a young corporate executive, Aaron (played by Aaron Kao). He is fed up with routine, finds pleasure in soaking in the sounds and sight of shopping malls, and fantasises over his pal’s cosplay-crazed sister. Then there is Renu (played by Sonya Nair), a lost child who fiddles with the shopping mall’s Public Announcement System, explaining that she is lost and confused. She pleads for her parents to find her and bring her home, but suspects that it will not happen.Despite coming from such different backgrounds in terms of social class, occupation and motivation, these three characters remind us that loneliness is a common state of emotion, that we all want to feel a sense of belonging and love.
Maybe we secretly hope that a handbag or a dress can make us forget our troubles. Sometimes we even think that we can find ourselves a soulmate in the designer cutlery section of a Japanese department store. Perhaps we are all guilty of “retail therapy” and it’s time to go shopping, not for scarves or forks, but for love.
From a light-hearted opening, the film transits to a more serious note by the halfway mark as it explores the possible repercussions of materialism and addiction to consumption. The characters seem doomed to an existence of futile repetition: Clara seems like she’ll spend her entire life shopping, Aaron refuses to report to work to be with his cosplay girlfriend instead, and Sonya mischievously tries to avoid being caught by the security guards so that she is not sent home.
Visually, the film is a treat. Shot entirely on the Panasonic Varicam, the cinematography by Jackie Ong is brilliant in most scenes with controlled lighting, although the highlights tend to wash out a little in the outdoor scenes. The art direction is sensitive, especially for the scenes in Mustafa Centre, controlling the chaos and colour to achieve some kind of visual harmony.
As a debut feature, Gone Shopping achieves a smooth transition from Wee Li Lin’s her previous experience of making short films. Her sense of timing and ability to capture the critical moments in each of the relationships make for a strong narrative. It’s a different side to shopping than what we usually see in the glittering Orchard Road Christmas lights — and certainly a more compelling one too.