DISCOVER TUESDAY 18/9/12: A SIMPLE LIFE
A SIMPLE LIFE tells the story of an ageing housekeeper, Ah Tao (Deanie Ip), who has worked for the same family for over sixty years. When Ah Tao suffers a stroke, her current employer, Roger (Andy Lau), gradually realises the lifetime commitment Ah Tao has made to him and his family. Stories of Ah Tao’s care and devotion begin to seep into the film and Roger’s consciousness. As a result, their roles are reversed and he begins to dedicate large parcels of his time and money to her care.
When Ah Tao first arrives at the care home Roger has organised for her, the scene is jaw-achingly depressing. The flimsy walls inside are adjoined to form little boxes that constitute the rooms for each patient. As the camera lifts above Ah Tao’s head, the all-white walls mimic the layout of an impersonal call-centre with the sterile feel of a hospital unit. Little, old Ah Tao, ever stoic nevertheless swallows her sadness.
Injected between the narrative sequences of Ah Tao’s waning health, shots of Hong Kong’s deteriorating urban landscape create a metaphorical parallel to her situation – the entrapment of surrounding walls and the gradual deterioration of appearance and soul can be seen in the city streets around her.
In the final scenes of the film, the camera lingers on a brick wall covered in branches. In the wake of the aged autumn leaves, which have been whipped off by the wind, new bright green leaves sprout across the arms of branches. The solid brick structure supports the cycle of natural degradation and new growth simultaneously – with Confucianism in mind, the visual says much more than words could.
‘An exquisite and wise moment of celluloid portraiture.’
Trevor Johnston, TIME OUT
‘It’s a gentle, flawlessly observed picture, moving but never sentimental, about getting old, fulfilling familial duties, killing time and being killed by time.’
Phillip French, THE OBSERVER
‘Perturbing truths about old age nestle inside an outwardly sentimental shell – it’s a less cosy or placid prospect than it seems.’
Tim Robey, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH