out of Five
Running time: 119
This poignant and emotional relationship study between an ageing servant and her employer requires more punch and focus, but is still a tender and heartfelt piece of drama with outstanding lead performances.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Ann Hui and based on real-life events, A Simple Life tells the story of the caring relationship between Ah Tao (Deanie Ip), an ageing servant and her employer, Roger (Andy Lau), now a successful film producer. Having served his family in Hong Kong for 40 years, Roger returns home one day to find that Ah Tao has suffered a stroke. She is rushed to hospital, where she announces she’d like to retire to a nursing home. As time goes by and Ah Tao’s mental and physical health slowly deteriorate, roles are reversed and Roger finds himself transforming from a self-righteous, successful single man into a committed carer of his elderly servant.
A truly touching story supported by true events, A Simple Life is brilliantly directed, featuring outstanding performances from its two main cast members, Ip and Lau. In particular Ip, who picked up the Best Actress award for this performance at the Venice Film Festival 2011, where the film debuted, is remarkable. Ip effortlessly portrays the humble and kind, but also excruciatingly tired and committed Ah Tao to convincing and credible degrees.
The script is also admirable; small flashes of humour provide attainable charm and the journey of Ah Tao’s long-lasting dedication and Roger’s gentle change provide the most tender and cordial moments.
Its deliberate slow pace works in part, but A Simple Life could have done with a bit more punch and a little more focus. The sentimental back stories of the support characters are not given enough attention to truly make us care for their fates and ultimately, the execution of Ah Tao’s inevitable destiny feels unintentionally lifeless. These faults aside, however, A Simple Life is still an emotionally engaging piece of delicate drama, worthy of its success in last year’s international film festivals.
Slow-paced, but incredibly moving, A Simple Life is recommended simply for its exceptional lead performances and warm demeanour. One to watch.
A Simple Life (Tao Jie) (PG)