A SIMPLE LIFE (Ann Hui). 118 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (April 13). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
Director Ann Hui is known for her delicate observational dramas, and A Simple Life is one of her most poignant yet.
Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau plays Roger, a low-level film producer who's been cared for by Ah Tao (Deanie Ip) his entire life. Tao was his family's servant for 60 years before suddenly suffering a stroke, forcing Roger to put her in a nursing home and care for her through her final days. It's material ripe for melodrama, yet with a basis in a real life and filtered through Hui's unique sensibility, the story never feels false.
The director's humanism and gentle humour are crucial. Her nursing home is no abusive 60 Minutes exposé, but a sweet place filled with kind souls and hilarious eccentrics (particularly the randy Kin, who borrows money from Tao for escorts). Ip is heartbreaking as the dying caregiver, while Lau drops his star baggage for pained realism.
Shot in a loose documentary style without much emphasis on narrative, the film meanders a bit before coming together for a tearful climax that's earned rather than forced.
A Simple Life is that rare movie about the elderly that never panders, priming tear ducts without prodding.