Ah Tao (Deanie Ip) has been attending to Roger’s (Andy Lau) family for 60 years. As a movie producer who is always going to meetings out of town, Roger seems to take Ah Tao’s maid services for granted; that all changes when Ah Tao has a stroke, retires, and willingly decides to live in a retirement home. Now with their roles reversed, Roger is unsure whether he’ll be able to tend to Ah Tao the way she did to his family for generations while Ah Tao just wants to avoid being a burden. However their bond only grows stronger with the role reversal and their relationship seems to amplify because of it.
Andy Lau has become fairly well-known in the states for his performances in the crime trilogy “Infernal Affairs,” action films such as “Fulltime Killer,” “The Legend of Drunken Master,” and “Shaolin,” the comedy “God of Gamblers,” and the mystery film “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame.” Like most stars from Hong Kong who are approaching middle age, Lau has practically made a permanent jump to the dramatic genre in recent years where his career is suddenly more performance driven rather than taking as much of a physical toll as the films from his past.
The chemistry between Andy Lau and Deanie Ip along with the superb writing of “A Simple Life” is what makes the film worth seeing. The drama probably isn’t exactly the type of film that would usually appeal to your interests, but it feels so genuine and is so structurally based in reality that you can’t help but realize how strong the film really is. The relationship between Ah Tao and Roger is incredible. Their laughter, the endless amount of stories they have for one another, and that tearful look in their eyes whenever something even remotely sentimental comes up is just extraordinary. The two actors do an outstanding job of portraying two people who seem to have known each other forever. Meanwhile the writing illustrates the ups and downs anyone’s everyday life could possibly have. Life throws you curveballs and it isn’t always a cake walk, but you deal with it the best you can and try to enjoy the little things since you know they won’t be around forever. “A Simple Life” adds weight to that aspect. Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most enjoyable.
The film is mostly Roger traveling nonstop while Ah Tao tries to busy herself while he’s away. They seem to gripe at each other constantly until Ah Tao has her stroke and then they’re always laughing around each other while only growing closer in the process. Seeing the likes of Tsui Hark and Sammo Hung have special appearances in the film is a nice surprise, but the bits of humor the film threw at you when you least expected it are a nice surprise as well. Roger getting mistaken for the AC repair man and the search for a new maid were pretty humorous, but Ah Tao observing the other tenants at the retirement home is where the film’s funniest moments reside. You see two old men get into an escalated argument, another use the wrong pair of false teeth to eat his dinner, and the rather eccentric Uncle Kin (Paul Chun) whose communicating antics and persistent desire to borrow HK$300 from everyone around him makes the supporting character extremely memorable.
“A Simple Life” has this incredible charm to it that not only has you admiring the relationship between Ah Tao and Roger but also the weight it puts into its heartfelt message. Driven by the fantastic performances of Andy Lau and Deanie Ip and its authentic writing, “A Simple Life” is the type of film you pop in to remind yourself that there is hope for the human race.