★★★★½ - STUFF
- Henry Golding shines in superb, slow-burning Vietnam-set drama -
Kit (Henry Golding) was six the last time he was in Saigon.
Thirty years on and now definitely more British than Vietnamese, he’s returned to where he was born to pay homage to his parents.
With both having recently passed, he’s looking for somewhere suitable to scatter their ashes. “I’ll just choose somewhere obvious and tacky,” he blithely local art tour guide Linh (Molly Harris), admitting that his parents rarely talked about their former lives. “It was like drawing blood from a stone. They loved camping, boil-in-the-bag bloody rice. Then they were suddenly gone,” he laments, as his long-suppressed emotions finally start to coalesce. “If I’d known then, I would have asked them all day, every day [about here].”
As Kit tries to flesh out what few memories he has of the country, he learns some surprising things about his family and himself and reflects that perhaps the gifts he bought his childhood friend – a tin of shortbread with the Queen’s face on it, a water filter and some whisky – are less charming and more archaic and patronising than he realised.
Only Cambodian film-maker Hong Khaou’s second feature (after his impressive 2014 debut Lilting), Monsoon is a slow-burning, evocative drama which will win Crazy Rich Asians and Last Christmas star Golding plenty more admirers. He’s in virtually every scene, taking the audience with him on his character’s journey to discover his roots.
The opening 15 minutes are particularly bravura, virtually wordless and bringing to life the sights, sounds and scooter-filled chaos of Saigon. An establishing overhead shot, gradually filling the frame with vehicles, instantly draws you in and eschewing a traditional soundtrack in favour of a combination of engine buzz and horns is a masterstroke. You really get a sense of space and place and initially share Kip’s sense of dislocation in his new surroundings.
Some may find the pacing a little too languid, but its worth persevering, as the real, tender heart of the story eventually starts to pour forth.
- James Croot, STUFF
(M, 85 mins) Directed by Hong Khaou.
Monsoon is now playing at Light House Petone and Pauatahanui!
(In English and Vietnamese with English Subtitles)