A Simple Life tells the story of Chung Chun-Tao also known as Ah Tao, a maid to the Leung family for over fifty years. While working for Roger Leung, who works in the film industry, Ah Tao suffers a stroke, leading her to move into a care home. During the film, we see Roger’s memories of Ah Tao as he begins to realise that his ‘maid’ is more of a mother figure to him.
This film paints the pathos of the decline into old age; we witness Ah Tao seeing her friends pass away and their relatives breaking down as they are informed of this. We see her struggle as she realises she can no longer take her of herself or Roger as she used to. Sometimes, this is handled comically in the film as she attempts to interview prospective maids for him, none of whom would ever provide the level of care that she did. None of the prospective maids know where to buy fresh fish, or how to use a clay pot to cook rice, and Ah Tao’s facial expression showing what she thinks is priceless.
This story is beautifully depicted and is one that we can all identify with as, at some point in life, we will experience the pain of watching a friend or relative deteriorate. The film cleverly pulls on your heartstrings by under-playing events; the film is so simple and therefore all the more powerful. By not telling us how to feel, the film makes us feel everything that Roger and Ah Tao are going through. There are no melodramatic drawn out scenes that pander to the theme of sadness; in keeping it real, the film hits us harder.
To break up the bleakness of its subject matter, comedy is injected into the story by playing up to Andy Lau’s success as an actor in real life; quips such as “you are a good actor”, made by his colleagues in the film industry, are interspersed periodically throughout. In addition, the use of Chinese stars playing themselves at Roger’s film premiere is also amusing, especially with Ah Tao frequently asking Roger, ‘is that person famous?’, when outside the film they, of course, are.
To conclude, this is a film I cannot recommend highly enough. It is beautiful, heart-wrenching, and, simple. I will be amazed if it does not make you cry; when I saw it, there was not a dry eye in the room.
Warning: if you wear mascara, make sure it is waterproof. I came out with black lines down my face.