Cast: Constance Wu, Kanoa Goo, Steve Iwamoto, Tim Chiou
Official Selection, 2021 Sundance Film Festival
Best Narrative Feature, 2021 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Hawai’i-based filmmaker Christopher Makoto Yogi follows up on the promise of his beatific first feature (August at Akiko’s, SDAFF 2018 George C. Lin Emerging Filmmaker Award) with this whisperingly vast tapestry of a man looking back at the end of his life.
First-time actor Steve Iwamoto illuminates the screen as Masao, a dying patriarch faced with the consequences of a long estrangement from the family now begrudgingly disposed to his care. The rapidly changing landscape of Oahu, his home in body and spirit, sets the stage for a memory play underpinned by drinking and forgetfulness, while the island’s long-time inhabitants testify to its spiritual continuity. Masao remembers the woman he loved and lost while their grandchild tends to his bedside; ghosts and the living move about indistinguishably as the linearity of time loses valence.
Clearly influenced by the masters of Asian “slow cinema,” but possessed of a style all his own, Yogi touches on complex themes of history, identity, and mortality while remaining anchored in Masao’s uneasy journey toward healing and serenity. Featuring tender supporting work from Constance Wu (Hustlers, Crazy Rich Asians) and a spare, haunting score, I WAS A SIMPLE MAN culminates with one of the most breathtakingly sublime sequences in contemporary screen culture.