A Simple Life

500 Days Of Film Reviews A Simple Life And Finds A Moving Story, Beautifully Told

Ah Tao has been devoted to Roger’s family since she was a teenager. 

Now in her seventies (and with most of the family now living in San Francisco) she lives with and takes care of Roger, a film producer.

She is a force to be reckoned with - loyal and protective, feisty yet incredibly warm. 

She is well known to the traders in her local market - who take delight in her eccentric, exacting standards.


However, when Ah Tao suffers a debilitating stroke the lifestyle that she loves and that Roger relies on falls apart.

She can no longer look after Roger and, not wanting to be a burden, she asks him to move her into a care home.

Forced apart, the maid/master relationship melts away as both Ah Tao realise how much they mean to one another.

Is It Any Good?

I am not sure why, but I have watched a spate of end of life films (Amour, Uncle Boonmee etc) recently. Many have been pretty tough.

So I can’t tell you how much I loved A Simple Life. Oh my goodness this is such a beautiful, funny and deeply moving film.

I loved Ah Tao and Roger from the very beginning. 

Deanie Ip shines as Ah Tao. Her facial expressions are wonderful to behold. She managed to make me laugh by just a flicker in her eye - she made me cry in the very same way. Ip’s is a truly superb performance.

Meanwhile, Andy Lau is captivating as Roger. He seems cold, detached and unsympathetic at first. It is then wonderful to see Roger realise just how much Ah Tao means to him and so lovely that he gets the chance to repay his debt.

Ah Tao’s character also changes. She goes from being a maid to becoming so much more - one of the family.


I was quite relieved that director, Ann Hui, chose not to dwell on the sadness of her story.

Yes, Ah Tao’s health is failing. Yes the care home is grim. And, yes, the film has many deeply moving moments (and, for me, they packed a punch because I genuinely love these characters).


However Hui’s film focuses more on heart warming love and humour. 

A Simple Life is a enjoyable, wonderful moving film that I would recommend most highly.


Random Observations

A Simple Life is based on the experiences of the film’s producer, Roger Lee. Lee co-wrote the script (with Susan Chan) and then brought the project to Ann Hui.

Deanie Ip won many awards for her performance, including Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival.

According to the wonderful review of A Simple Life by Roger Clarke in Sight & Sound Magazine, Ip has played screen mother to Andy Lau on several occasions: “In other words, she’s been mothering this star for 30 years; they’re a Hong Kong institution, endlessly examined, with her the eternal matriarch and him the successful son.”

The Sight & Sound article also notes that  A Simple Life is “also a wonderful film about food”. I completely agree. It made me want to go to a local market and start cooking - however, I doubt that my dishes would meet Ah Tao’s high standards!

Just had to mention the cat - such a moving performance. 

Have you seen A Simple Life? What did you think?

Let me know in the comments section below!

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones

E: jane@500daysoffilm.com


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