SYNOPSIS: Hong Kong, the present day, Chung Chun-tao (Deanie Ip) has worked for the Leung family as an amah for 60 years. She now looks after Roger Leung (Andy Lau) who came back to Hong Kong in his 30s and is the only member of the family still based there. As a film producer, Roger is currently working between Hong Kong and Beijing on a large-scale costume drama. One day, returning from Beijing, Roger finds Tao has had a stroke. Later, in hospital, she tells him she'd like to finally give up work and stay in an elderly home. Roger finds one in Sham Shui Po, supervised by the business-like but kind Miss Choi (Qin Hailu). Small and crowded, it's initially a depressing experience but Tao slowly gets to adjust and to know her fellow inhabitants.
Stripped off the usual fancy costumes, loud sound effects and even special effects, all you need for a movie to work is the plotting and the cast performance. Seasoned HK director Ann Hui probably knows this better than the average filmmaker, which explains why she is still the leading female director on the island.
Based on a true-life story, “A Simple Life” tells the tale of a hardworking, faithful Amah, Tao-Jie or Sister Tao (Deanie Yip) and her relationship with the son of her late employer, Roger (Andy Lau). While Roger’s remaining family members has since migrated overseas, Tao-Jie’s sole responsibility is to cook and wash for Roger ensuring he has the freshest fish and a bowl of hot soup for dinner when he comes back from his overseas stint as a movie producer. But age and death wait for no one, when Tao-Jie suffered a stroke at home one day, she knew her time as Roger’s employee is up and her only wish is to stay in an old folks home instead of being a burden to Roger.
Never been one to shy away from airing her opinions on the social and political state of society, Ann Hui’s “A Simple Life” is a depressing showcase on the plight of old folks stranded in homes. While Tao-Jie is the central character, Hui surrounds her with interesting people when she admits to her home. A variety of folks including a lecherous old man (Paul Chin) who borrows money to satisfy his needs, an old woman who pinned for her son’s visit and a disease-stricken woman become Tao’s mates. No doubt, it’s bleak at times but Hui never stooped to cheap melodramatics to win anyone’s hearts over. Most of the time, Hui and her cinematographer simply let the shots linger and distance cries at night perhaps sum up the overall mood of the home and instantly you get what Hui is trying to convey.
It has been more than a decade since Deanie Yip’s last appearance onscreen however her undeniable acting skills remain and her chemistry with Andy Lau is whelming. “The Hard Truth” in the 90’s sealed the fate of this wonderful pairup and “A Simple Life” served as concrete evidence as we follows Tao-Jie and Roger having a meal and strolling in a park and deep down we know it’s hard to find another pair of actors that possessed the same chemistry as the duo. While the movie is shot in plain documentary-style, Hui populates the movie with many star cameos including Tsui Hark, Sammo Hung, Chapman To, Angelababy and other seasoned actors that you probably haven’t seen in decades for some surprises. Mainland actress Qin Hailu impresses with her role as Miss Choi, the caregiver of the home and Wang Fuli is equally good as Roger’s mother.
Overall, “A Simple Life” is a genuinely affecting social commentary piece and truly deserving of the accolades received.
Presented in Cantonese, the Making Of consists of 4 parts and run an estimated 40 minutes. Covering everything from interview with the main cast members and cameo stars, behind-the-scenes footages to discussion on the ageing society, this feature is comprehensive enough for the award-winning Chinese language drama. It comes with a Trailer as well.
The visual on the whole is passable while the audio comes with both Cantonese and Mandarin options.
DVD RATING :
Review by Linus Tee