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The Next Reel Film Podcast • Series: 10 Year Anniversaries, Ann Hui • A Simple Life

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A Simple Life

"It’s my turn to look after her.”

Ann Hui has had a long career and was close to retiring in 2011 when she made A Simple Life. Luckily, she enjoyed making that film so much and enjoyed its success that she decided to keep directing. The film is a quiet one about a maid who has served the same family for over 60 years, now looking after Roger, the son who has become a film producer. After a stroke, however, she decides to retire. And Roger has to now figure out how to take care of her. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our 10 Year Anniversary series with a crossover episode that is also the first entry in our Ann Hui series with her 2011 film A Simple Life.

A Simple Life is a simple film, but emotionally rich.

With Andy Lau as Roger and his real-life godmother Deannie Ip playing Ah Tao, his family’s maid for generations, there is a built-in connection between these two actors. They feel real and feel like family. That being said, Lau does a great job at the start playing the workaholic who hardly even acknowledges her presence, except when he wants to request particular meals. He never has had to think of her as anything but the person who gets everything done for him.

So when Ah Tao has a stroke and decides to retire to a nursing home, the story provides a strong opportunity for Roger to figure out how to fit caring for her into his own life. Lau plays it incredibly well, but part of the reason it works so well is because he’s playing opposite Ip who shines in her role.

It’s a quiet film though. There isn’t a lot of time for large, gregarious scenes. These two never make the film maudlin. It always feels even keel, even when we’re left to wonder if we’re supposed to be seeing the nursing home as an antagonistic force in her life. It never quite plays the way we think it would and that provides a bit of confusion for us, but largely it’s fine.

We have a great time with this film. It’s touching in its quiet methodologies and carried by incredible performances. It’s great to see it still works so well 10 years later, and it’s a great film to kick off our Ann Hui series with. Check this film out then tune in! The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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