Ah Tao (Deanie Ip), maid to Roger (Andy Lau), has worked for his family for sixty years or more. When she has a debilitating stroke she requests to quit her job and move into a home. After a life of looking after another family, she finds that maybe she was more than just the maid when Roger begins to care for her.
Using this simple framework to explore issues of ageing, loneliness, dignity and how we treat the elderly, A Simple Life throws plenty of food for thought at it's audience without ever becoming top heavy and losing sight of the story of Ah Tao and Roger. A storyline dealing with the kind of issues the film does may not sound like much fun and in places it is hard going, factor in a running time of almost two hours and it may sound like the odds are stacked against the film. However, the characters and the warmth and love between them make the film wonderful to sit through even during it's heavier moments.
Ultimately the film belongs to it's two stars and Andy Lau gives one of the most impressive performances of his career. In a role so subtle he barely does anything, the looks between him and Deanie Ip are instantly recognisable and say more than any amount of words ever could. Deanie Ip is flat out incredible, as nuanced and emotional a performance as I can remember seeing in a Hong Kong film. The chemistry between the two stars is perfect, as it should be considering the amount of times they've played together over the years.
A Simple Life delivers a compelling, richly emotional human story filled with warmth and humour. In lesser hands the film could have become a mawkishly sentimental mess or a tub thumping tirade about the treatment of elderly Hong Kongers, or even worse both. Instead thanks to Hui's sensitive direction and the loving focus on the central relationship beautifully played by Ip and Lau, A Simple Life is one of the best and most rewarding films I've seen for many a year and deserves all the praise and many awards lavished upon it.