STOP10 Oct 2017: 'Gone Shopping' by Wee Li Lin - 10-Yr Anniversary Screening

Constantly stuck in a flux between reality and dreams, it becomes difficult to tell when the characters are truly living in this film. Soft lighting, whispering songs in the background and the never-ending human traffic lulls you into a sort of daze after a while. Welcome to Singapore. Oops. I mean welcome to the world of Gone Shopping.

Gone Shopping is the debut feature film of director Wee Li Lin, released back in 2007 to critical acclaim, and will be screened exclusively at the ArtScience Museum’s Expression Gallery, in collaboration with the Singapore International Film Festival, to celebrate the film’s 10th Anniversary. 

The film revolves around Singapore’s favourite pastime - shopping. 10 years on, even though that may have evolved into online shopping for most people today and Orchard Road is reportedly experiencing a slump, one can still argue that shopping malls are a ubiquitous feature in our lives. What the film presents is still something very familiar. Always within a couple of streets away, these strongholds of air-conditioning never leave the lives of Singaporeans. Jostling between the iconic 24-hour Mustafa department store, generic department stores and even the carpark and the security room, this film, like a shopping centre itself, offers various entry points into the world of Clara Wong, Renu and Aaron, three characters lost in these concrete playgrounds.

Actress Kym Ng plays the elusive Clara Wong, the trophy wife ‘Tai Tai’, who narrates her life and lives within her favourite walls of childhood – shopping centres. Seemingly in need of medication, she wanders from shop to shop, being addicted to the need to try something or buy something new, and from the directorial treatment, her POV seems dreamy and almost hallucinatory. Shoes, dresses, bags whizz past her like figures in a jackpot machine, only to be interrupted by phone calls from her husband from a loveless marriage. Veteran Channel 8 actor Chen Shucheng plays her alpha male husband, whose black hair in the film is a signpost of a time gone by and that you are likely to find many other ‘relics’ that will make you want to point at the screen while watching this 2007 work.

In her dreamy journey, she crosses paths with a few characters, some of whom provide a window, a mirage rather, of escape away from her uninspiring existence. These include a Tangs store assistant who is actually her childhood flame, played by Adrian Pang, appearing like the man who won your heart in school but ended up poor. They meet, rekindle an old friendship but predictably, don’t go very far. Clara also meets Aaron, another shopping centre addict, who visits the institution for a different reason – rebellion. Aaron, a body of teenage angst (angst seems like a concept that belonged to the early 2000s), leaves his HDB home in his work clothes but changes into his cosplay gear and detours to the shopping mall to meet his cosplay babe Hui Hui and others. Carrying a long shiny sword in his bag, he walks around Marina Square like he was on the set of Lord of the Rings looking for someone to save. The person turned out to be Clara in the end and he even does it with a touch of theatrics, pointing his sword at a distressed Clara who like him, has wandered around in the mall, fruitless in her search for an escape from the life she hates.

Director Wee Li Lin has also created an interesting counterpoint to the world of the contemporary mall – Mustafa department store. Several streets away from Orchard Road, a little girl, Renu, is lost in the cavernous and maze-like walls of the department store and unable to find her parents. A kid lost in a mall, another hallmark of the shopping mall experience, is brought to light and given a whimsical twist, kind of like being lost in a wonderland, where your mother is not telling you ‘don’t touch this!’ at every turn. It even breaks out into a surrealistic dance sequence that was jarring but oddly beautiful. Kudos to Li Lin for taking the risk in this.

Kym Ng surprises in this film, with her grasp of being Clara. Fragile, doll-like and almost untouchable, her performance was gripping and certainly keeps the audience lured into understanding her world and her motivations better. She is most of the time elusive, but there are moments when she lets her guard down and her vulnerability becomes quite an enamouring quality in the film. For Channel 8 viewers, it is also a joy to see Kym play a role that is a departure from the boisterous characters she is used to playing in her repertoire of TV dramas.

Easy to watch but heavier to digest when the credits start to roll, this film gave me a sense of bittersweet nostalgia in its portrayal of what Singaporean culture, or the Singapore Dream, more like. And it really makes you wonder: Is that really all we are? Gone Shopping is a film that needs to be experienced, so walk through the shopping malls, get frozen in time, and suspend your imaginations for this is a walk to remember.
Review by Dawn Teo

10th anniversary screening of local film Gone Shopping at ArtScience Museum  

1 - 6 Oct | 2.30pm & 5pm
7 Oct | 5.00pm
8 Oct | 11am, 2.30pm & 5pm
Classification: NC16
Running time: 100 minutes
Venue: Expression Gallery, Level 4
Free Admission on a first-come-first-served basis
Link to event Facebook page.

The screening of the movie is part of ArtScience on Screen, which showcases the work of groundbreaking filmmakers and artists. ArtScience on Screen forms the backbone of the museum’s dedicated film programming, with the aim to inspire audiences to discover art and science through film and moving image.
Beyond the screening, the integrated resort will also be hosting an In Conversations With dialogue session with the filmmaker and cast Sonya Nair of Gone Shopping and Professor Chua Beng Huat from the National University of Singapore on October 7 at ArtScience Museum. This dialogue session is part of an on-going series of talks with celebrities and prominent individuals from creative fields, who give insights into the world of film, television and art to young students interested in pursuing a career in a related discipline.

To register for the In Conversations With dialogue session, log on to

For the full list of October 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.
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