It bears some comparison to 7 Letters, the other anthology debuting last year for SG50, helmed by the venerable Royston Tan. 4Love is mm2 Entertainment’s own gathering of four local directors, expressing their styles on that elusive subject of love. Unfortunately, all other resemblance to the former ends there.
Scheduled to debut at our upcoming Singapore International Film Festival and later to the public, 4Love fails to deliver both its objectives: Of capturing love’s magic, and to tell an authentic Singaporean story.
The four stories seen chronologically, bears out a tale of the four stages of love from its beginning to its end. Granted, telling a good love story in a quarter of 99 minutes is a challenge, but the scripts here are bordering on puerile; a surprise given the previous accolades the directors have gotten. The contrived plots empties any chemistry opportunities the local ensemble has, with a Singaporean injection that is quite simply – hackneyed. Sadly, this production looks more at home on the small screen.
Director Raihan Halim starts us off easy, with a kismet tale of two young lovers who leave messages in a mutually borrowed book, developing an unlikely relationship. There’s plenty of quirkiness here, though not entirely original. The playful tone is overacted by the lovebirds, Max (Maxi LIm) and Nissa (Cheryl Wee), though Wee fares somewhat better. Worst is Max’s sidekick, who in one scene expounds his unbelievable double-date with Ukrainian sisters by thrashing his arms and screaming out, “UKRAINE!” several times in a book store. You need to chill bro.
There’s plenty of potential for the characters’ environment, what with one being a tourist attraction usher and the other being a durian seller, but it eventually turns out to be just that – an occupation and setting. And the written exchange? Unrealistic. The sharing turns into an SMS-like dialogue that is just impractical, thus unbelievable. Serendipity has never been so dull.
It’s too good to pass up – this segment is like shit. Literally. Weng (Terence Then) has a proposal up his sleeves for his longtime girlfriend Lynn (Silver Ang). No thanks to his bumbling best friend Bao (Jonathan Cheok), Weng loses the ring to a conman and goes through several misadventures in an attempt to recover it. The “extreme” part is a running gag that has the conman passing out the ring after eating it, and Weng racing with poop in hand to his proposal venue.
Director Gilbert Chan gets his dynamic duo of Weng and Bao right, but his apparent love for lame literal humour stinks up the movie in ways that can only be described as crass. His tired shitty scenario begins midway and becomes a joke diarrhea that culminates in a wedding acapella group (Juz-B) singing repeatedly about how Weng will go through shit for Lynn. A note to Chan, even a good joke can only be repeated once. Every gag that came up is equally inane so it wasn’t a surprise the theatre didn’t hear any laughs so don’t hold your breath – or maybe you should.
It was a tough call but I would have to say this is the worst segment of the four. Poor lighting, stiff acting and a dramatic plot straight out from the 80s that should be left for dead pretty much sums up the purported psycho thriller by Director Sam Loh.
Seven years into their marriage, Ye Lin (Oon Shu An) feels neglected by her husband Jin Hao (Louis Wu) as the latter is a flight attendant (already a cliche). Her interest in a fellow photographer colleague (Shane Pow) ends up in the sheets (and another cliche). I seldom do spoilers but this is really not worth withholding – new interest photographer turns out to be a psychotic possessive individual who attempts to kill Jin Hao when he begins to spend more time with Ye Lin (please stop).
The film is like one of those newer hipster cafes – all style, little substance. The acting is stilted and uncomfortable, and though Pow gives a good enough performance, the trio have as much chemistry as one of those “I Love Children” campaigns. The production suffers from amateur lighting and a terrible blatant cheesy soundtrack. So there’s nothing to save this droopy plot. That’s all.
You’ve probably seen the story in your social media feed – elderly couple dies moments from each other. It’s a moving tale that seems like a fairytale these days, and Director Daniel Yam manages to extract at least that much for his closing chapter of the anthology.
On the verge of a divorce with his wife Ellie (Hayley Woo), a distracted Carl (Joshua Tan) injures an elderly man (Tuan Wei Ming) with his car. To compensate, he accompanies him home and meets his wife (Chan Fong Lain) who has dementia. The foggy lady mistakes Carl for her husband and Carl plays along the next few days to help out. As he owns a photo studio, he also grants the elderly Ah Quan his wish of getting a wedding picture taken. As Carl and Ellie witness the commitment the couple has, they begin to question their own decision.
Disputedly the only film to resemble an actual professional offering, the cast knows what not to do – overact. Tan and Woo both put in a comfortable performance. As an estranged couple, they are natural and heartfelt. Dialogue here is life-like and motivations are genuine, so kudos to Yam for his reigns. But quite frankly, it was the tour de force Tuan Wei Ming that gave this chapter life. His acting is pure class – the perfect balm for a scarred viewer after the first three vignettes. Just try to hold your tear back when he makes his impassioned plea to his dying wife.
Rating: 1 1/2*
The one star really belongs to Yam and the others can share the half. But the big question here is – where did the $1m budget go?
The film is currently showing at all major cinemas.
First published: www.moviexclusive.com