A Simple Life

Ann Hui
Arrow Films

Life lessons are the hardest ones to learn. In A Simple Life, the aloof movie producer Roger (Andy Lau) treats his live-in servant Ah Tao (Deanie Ip) with something approaching dismissiveness – she’s so good, she’s almost invisible – until illness upsets the balance of their shared existence.

Lau, so often the pistol-packing star of Hong Kong action epics, steps up with a performance of surprising tenderness as the man who has business contacts rather than friends and whose notion of family is non-existent. Ip, in real life Lau’s godmother, enjoys an easy familiarity with her surrogate son and their on-screen partnership blossoms because of it. And if the tale occasionally veers toward sentiment and mawkishness – scenes in a nursing home are universal in their depiction of the old and confused – this is nevertheless a story based on suppressed love and mutual devotion.

The core of this gentle drama is the dawning realisation of what constitutes common humanity, and how it affects Roger as Ah Tao’s life winds to its close. In the end it’s all about love.

Tony Earnshaw