Stars: Henry Golding, Parker Sawyers, David Tran, Molly Harris
British, Cambodian-born writer-director Hong Khaou’s follow-up to his under-appreciated debut, ‘Lilting’ is a meditative and understated study of rootlessness and memory. Londoner Kit (‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Golding) is returning to Ho Chi Minh City, the birthplace he left when he was six-years-old in the aftermath of Vietnam War, to scatter his mother’s ashes. His brother, his wife and their child are due to follow shortly. His second cousin Lee (Tran) offers to show him around, although a meal with Lee and his wife proves awkward. Barely able to speak the language and seemingly unable to remember any of the locales they visit, Kit struggles to make a connection. Then, at a bar, he meets handsome African-American businessman Lewis (Sawyers, who played Barrack Obama in ‘Southside with You’), the son of a soldier who fought in Vietnam. They spend the night together and discuss their troubled family pasts and feelings of displacement.
There’s a touch of ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ in the picture’s depiction of fleeting lovers whose respective family histories are haunted by tragic historic events. Khaou deftly sketches the characters with small glances and gestures, while imbuing the picture with a suitably dreamlike and transitory atmosphere. It may be too oblique for some tastes and might have yielded more of an emotional payoff with a more experienced actor than Golding. Nevertheless, if audiences are willing to do the work, it’s a haunting, thematically rich piece, and cinemaphotographer Benjamin Kracun’s elegant renderings of Vietnam are often beautiful.
Monsoon is out in cinemas and available to stream now.
David Willoughby @DWill_Crackfilm