Film review - Monsoon

Far East Asian Cinema, Henry Golding, Hong Khauo, Monsoon Film, Terracotta Distribution, Vietnamese cinema -

Film review - Monsoon

Sometimes you need to return home to know who you are.

Kit (Golding - Crazy Rich Asians) has returned to Vietnam, some 30+ years later, to bury his mothers’ ashes. You learn, along with his family, he escaped at a young age to England. 

Like many of his parents’ generation, the corruption of communist parties and other political events, which rippled through Vietnams’ society during the 70s-90s, meant many people had to leave with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. 

This is what the story hinges on and plays through a man's discovery of self and where he comes from. Trying to make sense of the ghostly memories of his past, dealing with the inconsistency of memories, whilst exploring and having to accept his ‘new’ identity. 

You can feel the tension within him, asking ‘Who would I have become, had I grown up here?’ 

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It’s a slow burner of a film, with strong feelings of discomfort from relatable characters, if you grew up with a dual heritage background. 

You do get a true sense of the mental and emotional anguish through Golding's performance, which isn’t Oscar winning, but believable enough you can empathise with his character. There are these long reflective scenes of him, beautifully shot with Vietnam in the background, almost as if this place has never left him and always on his mind, yet mentally coming to terms with the disconnection he has with his past life and the place he is physically in, as he puts it ‘...I feel like a tourist.’

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What is interesting for the viewer and Kit, is on his journey, we learn the unfortunate truth about the those who never made it out, and to juxtapose Kit’s own reflection of identity, is American entrepreneur, Lewis (Sawyers - The Mummy), another somewhat lonely soul, who lives and works in Saigon. They develop a strong bond throughout the course of the film, openly sharing secrets of their past and how the events of the previous generation have shaped where they are now and how things could have been so different between them. Alas, not all hope is lost, as Lewis points out, that this decade’s generation has moved on from the days of war and Saigon is a young and different place to make things happen, as seen in Molly Harris’ character. There is change. 

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Thankfully the film is not bleak, although it’s not a barrel of laughs either. It’s an entertaining watch, with some arresting cinematography by Benjamin Kracun (Beast) and the pace of the film is steady. I was a little lost with the timeline between events and some of the dialogue felt misplaced and disjointed, but it is worth watching, if not for the beauty of Vietnam.

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Thematically speaking with a protagonist revisiting the ghosts of Vietnam, you could check out the film Da 5 Blood by Spike Lee.

Director: Hong Khauo
Cast: Henry Golding, David Tran, Parker Sawyers
Country: Vietnam
Genre: Family drama
2019