This acclaimed drama about a woman reaching the end of her life and entering a nursing home is a bona fide laugh riot (not)...
Well Go USA / 118 Minutes / 2011 / Unrated / Street Date: February 26, 2013
A Simple Life is not a fun movie to watch. Very much like Michael Haneke’s Oscar-nominated Amour, the tale at hand in Ann Hui’s domestic drama is certainly realistic, but focuses on elements of life that most of us would quite simply rather not focus on. We all have to leave these mortal coils of ours one day or another, and many of us will spend our autumn days in a nursing home. This is the narrative subject matter at hand here.
Ah Tao (Deanie Ip) has been a dutiful maid for a Hong Kong family for as long as she’s known, and as far as current figurehead Roger (Andy Lau) is concerned, she’s part of the clan. One day, though, she has a crippling stroke and is no longer able to fulfill her duties. Then come the facets of end-of-life care that so many of us know so well: she doesn’t want to be a burden on the young man, he’s not sure he’s doing the right thing, neither of them know who to turn to for information about their situation that might make it easier to bear.
A Simple Life has some magical moments in it – its snapshots of fleetingly tangible connection between people being its most reliable attributes – but its harshness and brutal emotional heaviness make it hard to bear. As viewers, it’s imperative for us to sometimes experiences horrors and realities that use their fictions to access and illuminate often purposely-covered parts of our psyches, but as well-acted and contained as A Simple Life is, I felt its real-life devastation to be relatively unrevealing. In short, I wonder why a tale so devastatingly sad needed telling.