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Monsoon

Peter Malone MSC  |  16 November 2020

MONSOON,  UK, 2019. Starring Henry Golding, Parker Sawyers, David Tran, Molly Harris. Directed by Hong Khaou. 85 minutes. Rated M (Coarse language)

The title of the film comes up on screen 13 minutes into the narrative. And the rains and the suggestions of monsoon come only at the end. However, monsoon describes weather in south-east Asia, in Vietnam, the possibilities for destruction, but the rain and cleansing, and then recovery and efforts in building up again.

The audience is invited to gaze initially at the traffic in Vietnam, from above, the cars, the myriad bikes, the intersections and vehicles crossing. Then the streets, travel in taxis, travel on the backs of motorbikes – which audiences who have visited Vietnam will easily identify with.

But, the screenplay invites the audience to identify with Kit (Henry Golding from The Gentleman, Crazy Rich Asians). He has sold his business in the UK where he grew up. He is bringing his mother’s ashes to Vietnam, and his brother will bring the father’s ashes and they will scatter them. But, for Kit, it is a journey into the past (though he was six when his parents left Vietnam). It is a search for his heritage, wandering around Ho Chi Minh City, absorbing the atmosphere, visiting the young man who is like his cousin from the past, who now has his own business, built on the money that Kit’s mother had lent him. The two do some searching together.

It should be emphasised that this is a very introspective film. While we travel and share with Kit, we are continually invited to identify with his questing, his reflections, the range of moods, although he is a genial and gentle character (and Henry Golding is blessed with a genial smile and personal composure).

It is probably best to suggest that the film is 'unhurried' – which means that it will not appeal to audiences who are in a hurry, were anxious for plenty of narrative development, for action, like quick editorial cuts and pace. Some audiences, inpatient, will not take the time (or realise, perhaps), that they need to sit back, share in the introspection, discover some subtleties of character, some nuances in Kit’s story.

While Kit is a loner, we see that he does crave companionship, going to bars, encountering men who are congenial, some one night stands – although, in Ho Chi Minh City, he encounters an African-American businessman (Parker Sawyers who played Barack Obama in Southside with You). They are enjoying each others company, talking, sharing their life stories – and with Lewis conscious of his father fighting in Vietnam and the tragic consequences. This may be the companionship and relationship that each of them is seeking.

In the meantime, the audience shares a train journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi with Kit, looking at the countryside, passing through towns and cities.

The director, Hong Khaou, was born in Cambodia, has worked in the UK (in a sense, his previous film, Quilting, serves as something of a prelude to Monsoon). He has directed many short films exploring and dramatising homosexual relationships.

For audiences who are prepared to sit back, observe, reflect, empathise and appreciate different cultures, this is quite a personal journey.

 

Madman Films
Released 19 November
Peter Malone MSC is an associate of Jesuit Media.

 

 

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