A Simple Life


Director Ann Hui’s Simple Life, a deceptively simple film, gingerly peels layer after layer of sharp insights into the dynamics of familial love, using compassion and droll humor as its tools. Its strength is that it manages to tap genuine emotion without succumbing to sentimentality. A closely observed character study about the low-key but powerful affection between an aged housekeeper and the middle-age man she helped raise from infancy, it’s based on true events from the life of Hong Kong film producer Roger Lee. When Ah Tao (Deanie Ip) has a stroke, it falls to single, career-minded Roger (Andy Lau) to provide care for her, a reversal of roles that neither is quite prepared for. As she settles into a nursing home and he begins frequent visits, their relationship enters a new key, and something of the culturally enforced class barrier melts between them. The shift in the ways they interact is subtly, beautifully illustrated in nuanced performances by Ip and Lau. The film is also energized by subplots (the treatment of other elders in the nursing home by their own families) and shrewdly deployed cameos by martial-arts film icons Tsui Hark and Sammo Hung that make for wonderful in-jokes for fans of Hong Kong cinema.

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