Monsoon – Film Review
by Frank L
Director: Hong Khaou
Writer: Hong Khaou
Stars: Henry Golding, Parker Sawyers, David Tran
In this film, a young man called Kit (Henry Golding) takes a trip into his past. He was a Vietnamese boat person and left Saigon when he was six years old, eventually ending up in England. The reason for his return to Vietnam is to bury his parents’ ashes and he is waiting for his married brother, wife and two sons to arrive from in England. However, the place he has returned to is in many ways alien to him. This sense of strangeness is emphasised in the mesmerising opening sequence of a junction, shot from overhead, of traffic consisting of masses of motorbikes interspersed with the occasional car threading its way through. It’s like watching busy ants with an occasional beetle going about their daily toil. The task that Kit is engaged upon is in essence to connect with his past.
Vietnam has changed considerably in the intervening years. Saigon has undergone and continues to undergo huge physical changes. He visits an old childhood friend and the differences between them are stark. Their displacement to each other symbolises the devastating effect the war has had and continues to have on those who left and those who stayed.
On a personal level, through a dating site, he meets Lewis (Parker Sawyers), the child of a US war veteran, who in a very different way has endured the scars of the war. He is in Saigon in relation to his new clothing line “Curve” (“not straight” as he points out with an engaging smile).
There are sensitive sequences of the domestic architecture of the French colonial style, now in a distressed state. These small scale structures manage just to survive the new tower blocks, vast highways and huge flyovers. There is much to alienate Kit but there is much which draws him back to his roots.
At a time when the world is seeing huge displacement of individuals throughout the globe, Khaou reminds us that even if physical safety is secured a huge emotional upheaval takes place for the individuals concerned which does not dissipate with time. He himself is from such a displaced background and he tells the story with insight and elegance. A film which is worth seeing.