Steven Sheehan’s review published on Letterboxd:
So Mr Chow moves on. Time to rebuild his life after he leaves the forbidden secret hidden up high in a Buddhist temple. Back to Singapore - the scene of the crime - in an attempt to experience what the world has in store for him next. After a failed marriage and a love he was unable to pursue, a change in attitude will perhaps make it a little easier to forget.
A woman like Mrs Chan is not one you are likely to erase from your mind but Chow attempts by pursuing the classic male route of physical escape. Lust is a short term measure that soon dissipates and when it does, if there is nothing else of substance then that time together soon loses meaning. And so it is as he runs through a succession of women, one from the past but all of them close by.
That same crammed, condensed notion from In The Mood For Love is once again realised through a multitude of door, frames and hallways. Whereas that intensity became almost unbearable between Chow and Chan, there are no issues surrounding lack of consummation as rooms 2046 and 2047 almost merge into one. The charm and endearment earned by Chow in the last film is unravelled by his mean and conceited attitude toward the women in his life.
Wong Kar-wai once again captures a magnificence of elegance and grace in a studiously composed opening that lays out the atmosphere ahead. A large slice of that is derived from what initially is a gorgeous soundtrack, that eventually doesn't quite know when to pause. Scene after scene is burdened with a score until it becomes a heavy handed approach leading to distraction. The themes of memory and regret are clearly identified without the need of an ever-present string section.
Five years on any project that can be made in a shorter time frame is always a sign of becoming over meticulous. 2046 seems more concerned with how it frames itself rather than compelling you into the people involved. That balance was perfectly achieved in the last film but this time the atmosphere suffocates the drama, which becomes fanciful and too self-concerned. Wong Kar-wai attempts to end the 'trilogy' on a much grander stage and in doing so it becomes distracted from the humane and political subjects it hopes to address.
To follow a seductive, elegant film such as In The Mood For Love is an almost impossible task and to his credit the director upped the ante. You get the sense he understood the task at hand having gone through thirty versions of the screenplay and although it fails to evoke the necessary emotion, it is nonetheless a bold piece of cinema.