A Simple Life Movie Review
Ah Tao (Yip) has served four generations of the Leung family over 60 years and is a friendly, cheerful fixture in the community. Her only real company is her cat until busy filmmaker Roger (Lau) returns to live in the family's Hong Kong flat. When she suffers a stroke, Tao doesn't want Roger to care for her, so he arranges for her to live in a nursing home and visits her regularly during her recovery. As the years pass, what was once a nanny-child relationship becomes something much more meaningful for both of them.
The film is exceptionally well-shot and edited, with earthy performances that create a relaxed, gently humorous mood. Yip and Lau play this relationship beautifully, with funny, warm banter that reflects years of memories, long-running jokes and even some sharp teasing. Food is a running theme, as Roger should be sticking to a healthier diet, and Tao tries to keep him in line. There are plenty of lively side characters, but they all add to this central relationship.
Meanwhile, the nursing home residents hilariously drive Tao nuts, while also reminding her of her mortality. Most memorable is the flirty Kin (Chiang) who continually asks for hand-outs to spend on hookers, but Tao understands why.
Elsewhere, the film is packed with running gags (everyone mistakes the underdressed Roger for a cabbie or repairman) and subtle character detail, including some lovely moments with Roger's mum (Wang) and a terrific sequence in which Roger takes Tao to a glamorous film premiere.
This is an immaculately observed film about how the relational seeds you sow in youth come back later on. Both Tao and Roger realise their reliance on each other, as if their destinies are intertwined and in balance. Along the way, the filmmakers explore the distance between generations and the importance of family history. And as Tao gets increasingly infirm, Roger's joy in spending time with her is both truthful and deeply moving.