There are some movies that manage the impossible task of convincing you that insensitive and callous as the Homo Sapiens race has turned out all is not completely lost with the world.
Despair not, these rare films insist, because the virtues of decency and compassion can still be found among a few people if you look hard enough around you.
A Simple Life is one of those exceptional movies that highlight the better nature of the few decent people left on this planet.
Famed Hong Kong film-maker Ann Hui directed this lovely film, which features Andy Lau and Deanie Ip in the two key roles.
The movie is a simple tale, beautifully told, of an elderly Chinese maid Ah Tao (Deanie Ip) in Hong Kong who’s served the same family for over 60 years.
Four generations have benefited from Ah Tao’s care since she came to the family as an orphan after World War II.
Now in her 70s, Ah Tao lives in an Hong Kong apartment with Roger Leung, a film producer, and one of the family members she had tended to when he was a young boy. Besides cooking, she maintains the apartment in fine shape.
The rest of Roger’s family has since migrated to America.
The highlight of A Simple Life is the relationship between Ah Tao and Roger Leung, shown as affectionate, loving and easy-going.
Not unlike that of any two close family members.
Although Roger is the master and Ah Tao the servant.
Director Ann Hui subtly shows us that Roger is in fact closer to Ah Tao than his own mother, who comes on a visit from America. But I’m getting ahead of the story.
Then one day calamity strikes – Ah Tao has a stroke.
Her left side is impaired and despite physiotherapy she now has difficulty walking and moving her left hand.
How will Roger respond to this tragedy?
Will the old servant be dumped, left to fend for herself in her autumn years?
Au contraire, Roger proves himself to be made of different metal from the callous herd of humans.
The scenes in the old-age home where Ah Tao moves in after the stroke are heart-rending, and are deftly interspersed with fine comic touches featuring some residents.
After watching A Simple Life, I learned that Ann Hui has been making brilliant dramas centered around social issues.
Fine as any film’s screenplay and story can be, it comes to life only with a sterling cast.
Director Ann Hui deserves kudos in picking two brilliant actors.
Deanie Ip and Andy Lau are extraordinary in their respective roles.
I was, of course, familiar with Andy Lau but Deanie Ip was new to me.
In a virtuoso natural performance, Deanie Ip takes this touching film to rarefied heights.
I was glad to learn, and after seeing the film yours truly was not in the least surprised, that when it comes to awards it’s been an embarras de richesse for A Simple Life.
The film was also Hong Kong’s nomination to the 84th Oscars but sadly did not make the final cut.
A Simple Life is ample proof that simple themes of compassion, illness and caring can turn out so beautifully in brilliant hands like Ann Hui’s.
I cannot recommend A Simple Life strongly enough.
If you ask me, A Simple Life is easily the best film I’ve seen in 2013.
This Chinese gem is available on DVD at Netflix.
A Simple Life has now whetted my appetite for more films by Ann Hui.