A Simple Life (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
February 15, 2013 by Dennis Amith
“A Simple Life” is a profound film from director Anna Hui that captures the story of the elderly, aging and frailty but also human nature. Featuring a fantastic performance by actress Deanie Ip, “A Simple Life” is a fantastic film that is worth owning on Blu-ray!
TITLE: A Simple Life
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 118 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 Widescreen, Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Directed by Ann Hui
Written by Susan Chan, Yan-lam Lee
Produced by Pui-wah Chan, Ann Hui, Yan-lam Lee
Executive Produced: Andy Lau, Dai Song, Dong Yu
Associate Producer: Hong Tat Cheung, Stephen Lam, Nansun Shi
Administrative Producer: Jeffrey Chan, Simon Li, Yue Ren
Line Producer: Yeung-Ping Sze, Hao Zhang
Music by Wing-fai Law
Cinematography by Nelson Yu Lik-wai
Edited by Chi-Leung Kwong, Manda Wai
Production Design by Albert Poon
Costume Design by Boey Wong
Andy Lau as Roger
Deannie Yip as Ah Tao
Dennis Chan as Vincent
Sammo Hung as Director Hung
Chapman To as Dentist
Hark Tsui as Director Tsui
Anthony Wong Chau-Sang as Grasshopper
Roger (Andy Lau) is a successful movie producer. Ah Tao (Deanie Ip) has worked for Roger’s family as a nanny and maid over the course of four generations. When Roger comes home to find Ah Tao’s suffered a severe stroke and is unable to care for herself, he agrees to help her relocate to a nursing home.
He wants to help, but fears he’ll fail her. She needs his kindness, but doesn’t want to be a burden. As their roles reverse, he becomes her caregiver, and comes to understand how much she means to him.
One of 2012’s most heralded and treasured films, with cameo appearances from film luminaries such as Sammo Hung and Tsui Hark, A SIMPLE LIFE has garnered multiple awards for Deanie Ip (Best Actress), Andy Lau (Best Actor), Susan Chan (Best Screenplay), and Ann Hui (Best Director). A SIMPLE LIFE has also won Best Feature Film in multiple festivals and made film critics’ Top 10 lists all over the world.
Filmmaker Ann Hui as had a number of films that have resonated strongly with viewers.
Her films typically take on a subject that showcase a darker side of Hong Kong. Films such as “July Rhapsody” (teacher/student relationship), “Goddess of Mercy” (justice), “Night and Fog” (murder) and “All About Love” (single mothers, same sex marriages).
With the film “A Simple Life”, which was written by Susan Chan and Yan-lam Lee, Ann Hui takes on life and taking care of an older loved one who is sick.
One of the most recognizable things that Asian cinema fans will discover about Ann Hui’s work is her ability to find the right talent to play the role of the main characters, in this case, Andy Lau (“Infernal Affairs”, “House of Flying Daggers”, “The Warlords”) and Deannie Yip (“Dragons Forever”, “Crying Heart”).
“A Simple Life” would win the Volpi Cup for Best Actress Award for Deannie Yip and the La Navicella Award for Anna Hui at the 68th Venice International Film Festival; winner for Best Director, Best Leading Actor and Best Leading Actress at the 48th Golden Horse Awards and was included in Roger Ebert’s top 10 list for 2012.
And now “A Simple Life” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.
“A Simple Life” is a story about a woman named Ah Tao (portrayed by Deannie Ip). She was given up by her mother, not long after her father was killed during Japanese occupation and at a young age, became a servant for a family for four generations. Now in her 70s, she still takes care of Roger (portrayed by Andy Lau), a film producer who left to study in the U.S. during his 20s, returned to Hong Kong in his 30s, since he was a child, he has been taken care of by Ah Tao.
Ah Tao is a simple person, never got into technology, she’s a dedicated servant that is beloved by the family, despite many of them moving to the U.S., she lives and takes care of Roger, who suffered a heart attack several years before.
As Roger is out on business for his career, one day he came home, Ah Tao suffered a stroke. Losing some of her physical functions and speaking pattern, she is worried that she would become a burden on Roger, so she decides that it’s best if she moved to a retirement home.
Because of family obligation and because he wants to take care of her, Roger takes her to a retirement home where she can live her new life and also get the rehabilitation that she needs.
But Ah Tao sees how life is at the senior home. Despite being able to rehabilitate and get back to health, she also sees the sadness in the home. From elderly who have no family to visit them, families squabbling of who will pay for the retirement home, elderly who have dementia or hurt other elderly, she realizes that these will be the people she will be living with and she has to grow accustomed to them.
She makes friends with a woman who’s daughter tries to visit, a man who is full of energy but keeps asking people for money and even a younger girl who lives at the home because it is the cheapest place for dialysis and better care.
And no matter how busy Roger is at work, he makes sure he visits Ah Tao and takes her out and does all he can to bring her happiness as much as he can.
But he knows that he wants to cherish the time he has with Ah Tao, a woman who pretty much raised him.
“A Simple Life” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Shot with a Red One camera, where one will see this film look incredible is through the closeups. From the facial details to overall textures of the clothing, you can see amazing detail. Colors are warm and I detected no banding or aliasing. Cinematography from Nelso Yu Lik-wai (“Still Life”, “Dream Home”) was great when either capturing human emotion or frailty, Hong Kong during Chinese New Year. If anything, this one of the most beautiful films from HK that I have seen on Blu-ray.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“A Simple Life” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0. As one would expect from a film such as “A Simple Life”, there are times that not many words are said on screen. It’s about facial expressions during the quiet settings but the film is primarily dialogue driven with the exception of a brief fireworks scene that utilizes the surround and actually sounds fantastic. But aside from that one scene, this is a dialogue driven film.
Subtitles are in English.
“A Simple Life” come with the following special features:
- Trailer – (2:14) The theatrical trailer for “A Simple Life”.
Growing up with traditional Asian values in America, it was always ingrained by my grandfather at an early age that our responsibility was to take care of the family when they get older.
Watching “A Simple Life”, the film was quite profound because it captured the essence of aging and frailty but also family.
In this case, a servant that has been with the family since a young age, taking care of four generations and as family have scattered around the world, the aging servant, Ah Tao, now stays with film producer, Roger.
Roger has been raised by Ah Tao and even at 70, she continues to cook, clean and shop for him, even take care of him and keep him healthy after having a heart attack. But now, the roles are reversed and after Ah Tao suffers a stroke and wants to live in a nursing home, Roger makes sure that she knows family is nearby. Even if it’s just him, he wants to give back to the woman who had taken care of him.
She may not be of the same blood, but he regards her as close family.
And what I enjoy about this film is the contrast of how films about elderly are shown in America versus Hong Kong. In America, we tend to see the banality of films of elderly abuse to a family disconnect and the loneliness that the elderly is facing.
While we do see that loneliness of various elderly in this film, its more of seeing things through the eyes of Ah Tao and a wonderful performance by actress Deanie Ip who communicates through eye movement and facial expression.
After suffering a stroke, Ah Tao is able to rehabilitate but while living at the senior home, it’s that feeling that this is a place you are going to die, the people around you are also going to die very soon and it’s all about time.
But unlike other seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia, Ah Tao still has quite a bit of life. She is able to make friends but she enjoys the time that she spends with Roger, because he can joke with her, eat lunch or dinner with her and he brings her along to places, including a film premiere.
But it’s the portrayal of Ah Tao that captivates the viewer. She is a woman who has lived as a good servant. Never the type to take gifts or even cash, she wants to pay things her own way and do it herself. Granted, Roger takes care of the costs at the senior home because it’s quite expensive but for Ah Tao, she is a woman who doesn’t want to be a burden to Roger or the family.
She’s a strong woman who is calling the shots of how her life is to be lived, no matter how hard it is for Roger and family who treated this woman like family to accept.
And we see that bond between Ah Tao and Roger as she spends time in the Senior home and seeing how she deals with loneliness or knowing that people around her will not be around that long.
As Deanie Ip is remarkable in this role, Andy Lau looks like a man who has never aged. At 51, he still looks like he’s 30-something. But aside from the gun or sword-toting characters or the suave playboy or businessman roles that he tends to play, Lau plays the role of a caring man, a film producer but one that doesn’t live like fame has changed him. Still wearing a backpack and coat, he is often mistaken as a taxi driver or air conditioning repair employee, suffice to say, this is the most subdued role that he plays amazingly well.
For Asian cinema fans, also intriguing are the supporting actors and guest cameos in this film. Anthony Wong, Angela Baby, Raymond Chow, Wing-Chiu Chan, Sammo Hung, Stanley Kwan, Chapman To, Hark Tsui, to name a few.
While I loved the film, there were a few scenes that probably could have been edited out as they served no true purpose (but to show more cameos), but for the most part, this is a very good film that I have found nothing negative to say about it.
The film reminds me a bit of my family who left behind servants because they moved to America but even to this day, my mother talked about the servants (the good ones) who took care of the family and how she visits or communicates with them today.
As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is fantastic and for Asian cinema from Well Go USA Entertainment, this is the best film I have seen on Blu-ray from the company in which detail was amazingly captured via Red One but also the cinematography is well-done and lossless audio is crisp and clear. I wish there were more special features but considering many Asian cinema on Blu-ray (released in the U.S as of late.) rarely have them, at least a trailer was included.
Overall, “A Simple Life” is a profound film from director Anna Hui that captures the story of the elderly, aging and frailty but also human nature. Featuring a fantastic performance by actress Deanie Ip, “A Simple Life” is a fantastic film that is worth owning on Blu-ray!
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