Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ebert Thoughts ‘14—A Simple Life (2012) ***

NR, 118 min.
Director: Ann Hui
Writers: Susan Chan, Yan-lam Lee
Starring: Deanie Ip, Andy Lau, Hailu Qin, Fuli Wang, Paul Chun, Tin Leung, Wendy Yu, Eman Lam, Elena Kong

The truth is I don’t always love the Ebertfest entries as much as the organizers do. Although, it’s a very rare entry that I don’t like at all. I liked “A Simple Life”, but it seemed to lack that special something that allows me to praise it as a truly great movie. It’s very well made and very well performed. It’s well written and tells a story that I haven’t seen before. Perhaps it does it too well.

It follows the late life of Ah Tao, a servant for over 60 years, who suffers a stroke. After the stroke she announces to her master that she will retire and move to a retirement home. Her master thinks of her as family and helps her in whatever she wishes. He finds her a home and checks in on her whenever he can, which isn’t as often as many might be able to, as he is a very busy filmmaker. The film follows her life in the old folks home, which seems deficient at first, but soon the fringe characters begin to distinguish themselves and present the appeal of such a life.

Beyond this simple description, there really isn’t much else to the movie. I suppose that’s why I’m not as taken with it as I’d hope to be. I recently wrote of falling asleep during movies, and I could see this one working pretty well as a sleep aid. Again, that isn’t because it isn’t well made, it’s just doesn’t have a lot of dramatic drive behind it. The story is touching and revealing about the tender relationship held between master and servant. It gives a little enlightenment to the lives of stroke victims. It just doesn’t grab the audience in any way. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. I suppose it is the exact movie the filmmakers wanted. It just doesn’t leave a whole lot to jump up and down about.

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