Andrew W.’s review published on Letterboxd:
Now that I think about it, the Wong Kar-Wai films I've seen all deal with some form of unrequited love and the loneliness/longing that accompany this specific type of love, and 2046 is no different, a romantic drama that is loosely tied to two previous films of his that I really do need to see, Days of Being Wild and In The Mood For Love.
The film follows an author (as played by Tony Leung) living in a hotel in Hong Kong, of the women who drift in and out of his life, specifically the ones in the hotel room next to him, room 2046, and of the love that he once had, lost and now seeks throughout his days, using both this and his paramours as inspiration for the sci-fi serial he's currently writing, entitled... 2046.
2046 is a film that wants to seek out love, to be consoled by it, and fails to do so because of the self-destructive cycles it has set for itself, whether that's through pining for a love from one's past, seemingly insurmountable personal obstacles that threaten ominously, or even just blindly misplacing one's love. Despite this pattern, 2046 is a very seductive film that makes the possibility for one to find this perfect love tangible, where the characters and situations involved aren't classic types where "they were meant to be" or "two complete opposites fall for one another"; no, everyone here is looking for a sense of completeness, a love to fill their days and satisfy their souls, and because they're only human, they can only try (and fail) with one another. And even though this film is about lost love and loneliness, one cannot help but hope for a happy ending to this entire saga being presented here.
Tony Leung does well here, as his character provides the story's anchor and backbone, the author who had given so freely of his love in the past and now seeks to fill the void that is now occupying that empty space, but the real stars here are the actresses who occupy the characters who flit in and out of the authors days, who really flesh out the story and bring it to life. Faye Wong serving double duty as the hotel manager's daughter, herself nursing an unapproved love for her Japanese boyfriend, and as an android that the main protagonist of Leung's serial falls in love with. Gong Li (there she is again!) as a professional gambler in the author's recountings of his past in Singapore, before he moved back to Hong Kong, who shares the name of his lost love, Su Li Zhen, and Zhang Ziyi as Bai Ling, a cabaret type and former occupant of room 2046 who falls into the same love that Leung's author had lost many years ago. Both Faye Wong and Gong Li are excellent in their roles, both providing emotional nuance and a sense of realness to their respective characters, but Zhang Ziyi outshines them all in her particular role, allowing hope, passion and despair equal measure in her performance, elevating what could have been a simple role to a performance that magnetizes your eyes to the screen. The choice of warm lighting and colors help lend to the seductive airs being presented on screen, and the music is gorgeous. The cinematography is well done as well, keeping the story and characters in its main focus and never allows our attention to slip, and Wong Kar-Wai's direction is excellent, guiding the story along with almost minimalistic touches and flourishes, ensuring that the film never wanders or meanders aimlessly.
In the end, this film makes you pine along with the characters, not necessarily for the same love, but you hope that they can achieve that lost sense of completion within their lives, and that is the mark of not only good storytelling, but the mark of an excellent filmmaker.