• Deannie Ip and Andy Lau both won top acting prizes at the 2012 Hong Kong Film Awards for their work.

Having now seen Ann Hui’s A Simple Life (at the improbable outlet of River East 21), I can aver that this Hong Kong feature is well worth checking out. It’s the sort of humanist filmmaking (like Satyajit Ray’s) that seems to take shape on its own, and it goes down like honey. Hui and her writers (Susan Chan and Roger Lee) let the characters lead the way: it never feels like you’re being told a story about these people, but sharing time with them. Given the subtlety of the approach—and the familiarity of the material—it’s easy to overlook the movie’s odder qualities and its troubling undercurrent. This is indeed about a single man taking filial responsibility for his family’s aging maid after she suffers a stroke. But what it manages to suggest about how people live and die in contemporary society is hardly uplifting.

What follows are some initial observations of A Simple Life. I hope they create an idea of how complex and mysterious this deceptively easy movie is.