Meditating on what Makes Masao A Simple Man

24 Sep

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

L.A. Asian Pacifc Film Festival
Regal L.A. LIVE:
A Barco Innovation Center

Sept 25, 2021
12:00 pm

Not everyone can say, “I Was a Simple Man,” like Christopher Makoto Yogi can. This film by this writer/director offers a truly sombre look at the last days of Masao (Steve Iwamoto). The flashbacks reveal everything you want to know about this protagonist–including bits of his troubled family’s past–and why he lives his days out with his daughter, often alone instead with friends and kin.

It’s tough to watch a parent grow old, hear them complain about one thing or another, and see you’re not able to help. Kati (Chanel Akiko Hirai) is the only relative trying her best because they share the same space. Her brother Mark (Nelson Lee) is living a new life far, far away. When she phones him and asks for him to come home, the dilemma they face together in how to deal with their father is tough. 

As Masao becomes increasingly bed ridden, the attention to detail in the visual environment becomes more hauntingly real. The garden blooms and spoilage is just one hint at what’s to come. Another is in how he sees ghosts come to console him. It’s this element which makes this tale take on a touch of the supernatural and its bittersweet. The cinematography is poetic and contemplative, making this film almost a tear jerker because everyone knows the inevitable.

Although we have the spectre of Grace (Constance Wu), Masao’s wife, appearing to help prepare her husband for that next life, the meditation is just that. Instead, it’s more in line with the Hawai’ian traditions. And we’re waiting for this Masao to accept his fate with strength and resolve, and that’s when it’s safe to cut to black.

4 Stars out of 5

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