The East Asia Film Festival Ireland keeps on trucking and after A Girl Missing and its tale of innocence lost next up is a very different film. Starring Henry Golding as Kit, Monsoon is about a man returning to Vietnam, a country he was born in but does not recognise as he places his two parents to rest.
The story follows Kit as he tries and reconnect with this unfamiliar land. He is a stranger, a tourist to his own relatives. He recognises very little as he and his family fled Vietnam (Saigon specifically) when he was six years old. Thirty years on and so much has changed, Vietnam has changed and so has Kit. This makes for a difficult journey for him.
To try and ease the pain and unfamiliarity Kit uses what I imagine is the Vietnamese version of Grindr and hooks up with people. This is when he meets Lewis (Parker Sawyers) a man who he immediately forms a bond with.
They discuss how their lives were affected deeply by the Vietnam war and they clearly bond through their pain. They have tender scenes together but they are tinged with melancholy as if Lewis is dealing with the responsibility of what his father did during that war and Kit is dealing with the responsibility of his family fleeing.
Beauty in the broken
Vietnam and Kit are very much on show in Monsoon. Kit does not recognise his home and it in a sense does not recognise him. He’s unsure where to go, does not know any Vietnamese and he’s almost constantly watching the horizon. It’s almost as if he’s hoping if he stares long enough he will remember what this place should mean to him.
Every time we see him enter a new locale, whether it’s a building or when he travels to where his parents were born, Hanoi, he is in awe but that is quickly replaced by a sense of melancholy. Kit is disconnected. He can see this should mean something but it doesn’t. It’s not until he spends more time with his extended family, learns more about their lives, and travels around Vietnam that he begins to relax.
There is also the fact that the only time he seems genuinely happy is when he is chatting to his brother in the U.K. This clearly shows how much more at ease he is even with this sliver of the familiar.
What made Monsoon such an enjoyable film to watch was that director Hong Khaou pays close attention to the dual identities of Vietnam. The modern era that is quickly overtaking the traditions and beauty of the pre-war beauty of Vietnam. There is a beauty to the modern era but it feels far more crowded and at times invasive when you see what it is doing to the more traditional architecture of Saigon and Hanoi.
The acting is also A+ as Golding gives a powerful performance as a man unsure about what is place is in a country that he should feel at home. It’s mainly a one-man show but when Lewis (Sawyers) shows up its a tender and warm story of two people dealing with the fallout of two separate families dealing with the same horror.
If I had any issues it’s that the films ending comes out of nowhere and it takes you a moment to adjust and realise why that moment was in a sense the perfect place to end.
Monsoon is a great film. It doesn’t try anything daring or over the top but the most impactful stories in cinema do not need to be to leave an impact on your heart. A story of family and of finding your place and finding a home is exactly what Monsoon is and it is another recommendation from the East Asia Film Festival Ireland.
Stay tuned for more on the festival from Scannain.