A Simple Life
A Simple Life Film Review
A Simple Life follows Ah Tao, a maid who has served the same family for sixty years after being orphaned in the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. Having been responsible for many of the children of the family, her current charge is Roger, a hot-shot film producer who takes her efforts for granted. However, when Ah Tao suffers a stroke, she decides to retire and move into an old person’s home. What follows is a touching, heartfelt and, at times, difficult drama about the infirmity of age, and the social issues surrounding the care of the elderly.
Despite the few aspects of A Simple Life that are unique to Hong Kong, such as the common practice of emigration to America that has seemingly constructed a culture of abandonment where the elderly are concerned, this is a universal subject that everyone can relate to. The reversal of Roger and Ah Tao’s responsibilities provides an intelligent and emotional field for the film to play out in, with a connection that not so much builds, but is instead slowly revealed throughout. What was once a working relationship becomes so much more, as the two become much more like family. This is deftly brought into focus when the rest of Roger’s family is introduced and the relationship between him and Ah Tao seems far more loving, with her constant presence throughout his life being brought sharply into focus.
Deannie Ip, who plays Ah Tao and won an award at Venice for the role, gives a wonderfully sincere and convincing performance, showing kindness, humor and sadness in each scene. The character is not played up to be a saint, thanks to moments such as her almost disgusted reaction to the drooling and frail residents of the care home, but instead is carefully weighted to give not only a sympathetic and loving character, but one that is easy to understand and identify with.
There are no tricks, no twists or turns in A Simple Life. The simple story plays out as you would expect, and with the generous running time, some may find it a plodding affair. However, for those who are patient, the simple pleasures of Ann Hui’s lingering direction, the melodic piano soundtrack, and the top class performance of Deannie Ip is well worth the time it takes to watch the film. The performances, and the relationship between Ah Tao and Roger, lingers with you long after the film’s end, making it an extremely worthwhile experience.