Simple story proves less is more
Barry C Chung
Ah Tao (Deanie Ip Tak-han) has been a live-in maid with the Leung family for 60 years. She cooks, cleans and tends to the flat of Roger (Andy Lau Tak-wah, pictured, with Ip), the lone family member still residing in Hong Kong. At first it seems the pair primarily have a master-servant relationship, where verbal exchanges are kept to a minimum. But Ann Hui On-wah's A Simple Life develops to show their relationship is more akin to mother-son.
However, one day Ah Tao (who Roger calls amah, or grandmother) suffers a stroke and decides to resign. She asks to be placed in a nursing home, which Roger arranges, footing the bill and visiting whenever his job as a producer allows. The whole Leung family, including the mother (Wang Fuli), visit her, too. (And we see a stark contrast in the physical health of the two, despite their same age.)
The dynamics of the master-servant relationship has now been reversed: as a combination of filial duty, repayment of gratitude and familial bond, Roger now tends to his amah - and he does it without second guessing himself.
A Simple Life thrives on simplicity of character, story and storytelling (emotions are not, though). The inevitable death-bed scene is not drawn out for tear-jerk reaction: there's no long, tearful exchange between Roger and his amah. Nor are there speeches about living life to the full. It's no-nonsense and to the point; what's not present reveals so much more.