After suffering a stroke, an altruistic maid announces that she wants to quit her job and move into an old people's home.After suffering a stroke, an altruistic maid announces that she wants to quit her job and move into an old people's home.After suffering a stroke, an altruistic maid announces that she wants to quit her job and move into an old people's home.
The performances by Andy Lau as Roger the man and especially Deannie Yip as Ah Tao complement the movie's atmosphere as a whole. It is a warm, homely and crystal-clear one – subtly quiet, slightly louder when there's more people around. This film's screenplay relies more on the look on the actors' faces rather than relying on dialogue. This is a good thing. It allows the audience to focus on the performances in rapt attention. Relying on dialogue/subtitles more than often will distract from the movie. This is one movie which follows my rule for any great movie: subtlety is key. In many dramatic Chinese movies, the piano is a must for every music score, and it is overdone cheesily at many times. For this movie, however, composer Law Wing-Fai knows crucial music timing - the music is not overdone, yet not too minimal, and it knows when to appear at the right time. Correct.
Hui's focused yet calm, serene direction basically drives Susan Chan's screenplay right at home. Hui seems to have learned a thing or two about human drama from greats like Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa – it is put into terrific use here. But Yip's performance as the altruistic Ah Tao is simply wonderful; her face and body language speak more than herself, her vocal qualities ranging from sharp balking to solemn calm. She is the heart of the movie, alive, beating and like her, moving quietly along as her life goes by. Lau is also very good here, being more stoic than usual but hiding uneasiness within his eyes.
There is no great story without good characters, and "A Simple Life" has two great characters that drives the movie. Roger is a successful film producer, his whole family has migrated to America, and he's seemingly living the high life with his wealthy friends (featuring many non- intrusive cameos by Chinese celebrities including humorous ones by Sammo Hung, Tsui Hark and Anthony Wong) and yet he is more concerned with Ah Tao than everyone else. Ah Tao is an orphan since World War II and has since been serving Roger's family for four generations without expecting any sort of compensation in return. Roger doesn't mind taking care of Ah Tao as everyone else progresses around him – the same way Ah Tao doesn't mind living her life on her own at an old folks' home without Roger to help her around after a stroke attack – she feels guilty if he did that. The two characters are bonded, play with, even depend on each other as if they're the only two people who understand each other. A sort of mother-son love, but more powerful. Compare with later scenes with Roger and his real mother and you'll see the difference. I'm not implying Roger's real mother is a morally bad character, far from it. The relationship between them is more real and human than I had expected.
Some will call this tedious and pretentious; others will call it pointless. I'm not sure, but I'd love to see movies like this where the characters unwrap the story around them as life progresses with its ups and downs. Sure, there are a few bits and pieces that did not really relate to the main character's story – but they make up the story and the characters as a whole – shaping this narrative up. It is a thing of beauty. So is life. So is this film - one of the year's best.
Overall rating: 88%
- Aug 22, 2012