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A Simple Life

A Simple Life

Released 3 August 2012
Director Ann Hui
Starring Andy Lau, Deanie Ip
Writer(s) Susan Chan, Yan-lam Lee
Producer(s)

Pui-wah Chan, Ann Hui, Yan-lam Lee
Origin Hong Kong
Running Time 118 minutes
Genre Drama
Rating  
77

Simple but effective.

Set in the financial hub of Honk Kong, Ah Tao has been servant to the Leung family for generations but, after suffering a stroke, tells her master Roger that she wants to retire and be put in a home for the elderly. Film producer Roger has relied on Ah Tao for years and provides financial assistance for the woman who helped raised him first out of moral obligation, but finally out of love. As time goes by Roger soon comes to the realisation that Ah Tao was a mother figure to him and misses her deeply. Having spent years being impassive to her service, Roger is intent on finally repaying the favour to ensure that his modest friend, who doesn't like to be lavished upon, has as rich a final few years as possible.

There is no doubting the charm and character of A Simple Life. Laced with comedic elements, the film explores the everyday but necessary components of family and companionship, as well as the inevitability of life and death. Some of the acting on display is incredible and it is unsurprising that it has cleaned up in awards on the international scene. The chemistry between the two protagonists is natural, yet still maintaining the regional aspect of hierarchy that makes their friendship so compelling.

However, it has to be noted that the pacing of the film is odd. For a screenplay that evidently tries not to rely on it too much, the inescapable presence of sentimentality damages the fluidity of the story. Probably working against this is, at almost two hours, the motion is too long. The entire premise is that they both simultaneously lead very different but simple lives - we get it, and ultimately don't need a succession of overly long scenes forcing us to accept as much.

In the midst of it all, though, is a very real and rewarding film. There is nothing offensive here, but simply a journey of appreciation and goodwill. A Simple Life succeeds by virtue of the fact that it is actually quite bland and, in this case, that's just fine.

- David Caulfield