VOD film review: Monsoon
James R | On 26, Sep 2020
Director: Hong Khaou
Cast: Henry Golding, Parker Sawyers
Watch Monsoon online in the UK: BBC iPlayer / BFI Player / Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
Henry Golding gets a welcome chance to take centre stage in this thoughtful story of an expat returning home to Vietnam. With a title like Monsoon, you might expect a tempestuous, dramatic episode, but that would be to overlook the name above the title: Lilting director Hong Khaou delivers another understated, deliberately quiet affair.
Golding plays Kit, who returns to his home town of Ho Chi Minh City to scatter his mother’s ashes, only to wind up trying to reconcile the Vietnam of his past with that of the present. The last time he was there he was six years old, and his family fled the country in the aftermath of the Vietnam-American war. Going back, he finds a gulf between his memories and the reality of the people who have stayed and lived there – including his childhood friend Lee (David Tran) – and watching him trying to cross that gulf makes for a gently absorbing journey, even if the two ends of that expanse never quite come together.
During his visit, he also crosses paths with Lewis (Parker Sawyers), an American living in Saigon, and their interactions blossom into an unexpected bond – not just one filled with comfortable romantic chemistry, but also in their joint compulsion to resolve their heritage and their current surroundings, a swirl of privilege, nature, nurture, nation and culture that builds into a brooding, atmospheric cloud of ambiguity.
A gorgeous opening shot gazing at moving traffic, which slowly zooms out to appreciate the gradual hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, sets the pace for this very slow, gentle tale. The ending is, perhaps, too gentle, but that’s partly the point, and Khaou’s mastery of mood remains beguiling throughout. The surface is quiet, but the tempest is broiling there under the surface.
Monsoon is available on BBC iPlayer until 28th December