We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
"A Simple Life" paints portraits of two good people in gentle humanist terms. It filled me with an unreasonable affection for both of them. Here is a film with the clarity of fresh stream water, flowing without turmoil to shared destiny. No plot gimmicks. No twists and turns. Just a simple life.
The life is that of Ah Tao, who was orphaned during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, spent her entire life in the service of four generations of a Chinese family, and is now the servant of the only family member still living in China. He is Roger, a movie producer. They have a settled routine: During a meal, he puts out his hand, knowing she will be standing behind him with a bowl of rice. No words.
But this meal, which opens Ann Hui's film, doesn't contain the full truth of their relationship. That is something we discover at the same time they do, when Ah Tao (Deanie Ip) suffers a stroke, and Roger (Andy Lau) takes charge of her care. He assumes she will continue to live with him and says he will hire her a caregiver. She wants nothing to do with that. She wants to live in an old folks home, and that's that.
Throughout the film, she resists his money, protests that his presents cost too much, tells him to spend more time at his job and less on his visits to her. This despite the fact that she literally has no one else in her life (all the members of Roger's family now live in America).