A Simple Life 桃姐 (2011) – Hong Kong

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Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 29 March 2012

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I seriously do not know why it took this movie so long to be in the cinemas. It is one of the defining works of the year and essentially a simple movie about simple and unexplored characters of Hong Kong people. Ms Ann Hui is truly at her very best once again. After winning awards for The Way We Were, Hui strikes the cord to the highest potential by casting Andy Lau and former box office queen of 80s Deanie Ip whose chemistry dates back to almost 23 years old in their last corroboration. It is truly a delight to sit through a movie like this and while this being one Hui’s most accepted work to the general public; she never strays away from her principles and values. At its core, it is a film about human interactions, feelings, relationships and old age. One day, we will die and old age is a burning topic for the baby boomers generation.

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Deanie Ip puts in a career defining performance and as she puts it, acting as an old lady is not difficult at all, as she is just playing herself. The manner she manages to make the audience enjoy her character the Chinese servant of Hong Kong family for 3 generations is impressive to say the least. Life is never easy and sometimes, we just tend to forget those people who work their life within behind the scene, with heart, soul and pure dedication. These are people who gave up on having a family of their own and instead spend their whole life raising other people’s families. Nowadays, the loyalty and the servant and master relationships are a lot more different. As mentioned before, Ip’s characters work so well because there is an underlying chemistry between Andy Lau and her. Lau puts in an underrated performance that doesn’t allow him to overshadow the main character. It is a compliment that it is because of the understated manner Lau manages to approach his character that allows Deanie Ip’s the spotlight and attention.
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A Simple Life has already won a lot of awards and not to mention plenty of admiration from a new league of fans young and old. Hui has been around a long time and has never strayed from the commercialism of Hong Kong cinema. To finally witness an Ann Hui film making splash at the box office is really as a good a feeling as watching a fine piece of cinema. In many ways this is a true and realistic look at simple aspects of life, characters and old age. It is this simplistic that makes Hui’s films so different, enjoyable and ultimately touching. All in all, A Simple Life is a Hong Kong movie and more importantly a movie that takes us along the ride, respects those around us and allows the audience to reflect upon their own lives. Movies like these only comes along once in a generation and while this may not be Hui’s best work, but in terms of balancing the needs of the Hong Kong people and her own vision, it is certainly the most accessible of her works. A fine piece of cinematic experience…
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Neo rates it 9/10

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