Filmmaker Ann Hui (well-known in the East for her long & distinguished career but almost unknown in the West) hits a bull’s eye with A Simple Life, winner of film festival awards last year in Tallinn (Estonia) & Venice (Italy) as well as more predictable wins in China & Hong Kong.
A Simple Life is the story of “Ah Tao” (Deanie Ip). Ah Tao has been a maid for a prosperous Hong Kong family for almost 60 years, but most of the family has now relocated to the USA, leaving her to care for son “Roger” (Andy Lau) a man around 40 who is still single & still based in Hong Kong.
Independent, dedicated & always feisty, Ah Tao is nonetheless reaching her physical limits. One day Roger returns home to find she’s had a stroke. Determined to care for her as she has always cared for him, Roger helps her relocate to a Senior Care facility, & altho she quickly makes friends with some of the residents, he becomes a frequent & devoted visitor.
The narrative arc is a bit too smooth. It’s hard to believe that a man in Roger’s position in life would really be so attentive, & he never gets a fully-developed backstory explaining why he is as we find him (single & still in his old family home).
But the performances are so heart-felt that it’s easy to suspend disbelieve & go with the flow. Ip is excellent as Ah Tao, anchoring the film with an outwardly gentle demeanor that always shows a glint of her spine of steel.
In the end, while A Simple Life is a fascinating glimpse into how another culture manages to care for its elderly, it is a universal story about aging: one person is nearing the end of her life & the other person is helpless to prevent it.
Brava, Ann Hui 🙂
Photo Credits: China Lion Entertainment
Q: Does A Simple Life pass the Bechdel Test? Yes, but it’s a stretch…
A Simple Life is very focused on the relationship between Ah Tao” (Deanie Ip) & “Roger” (Andy Lau). Once she moves into the senior residence, however, Ah Tao begins to have interactions with the other women who live there as well as some of the staff members.