I Was a Simple Man



Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 85%
IMDb Rating 6.4 10 105

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Uploaded By: FREEMAN
December 15, 2021 at 03:50 AM


Tim Chiou as Adult Masao
Constance Wu as Grace
918.89 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 40 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by JGReviews 9 / 10

A Beautiful and Haunting Hawaiian Film

I Was a Simple Man is a beautiful, haunting, and rewarding film. I recently saw the film's premiere at Sundance (virtually) where both of the virtual screenings sold out, which is an indicator of the film's intrigue. In I Was a Simple Man, director Christopher Makoto Yogi tells the story of a dying man named Masao on the North Shore of Oahu. We realize after some interactions with family that Masao is in no way a simple man and has quite a complicated past. He is a man who fell deeply in love with his wife, but after her death decades ago he chose to have very little involvement with his children, which leaves him mostly isolated on his deathbed. I connected with this storyline deeply, particularly during this pandemic when many of us are confronting death to an extent that we never have before, and also feel incredibly isolated at the same time. Days later the film has me grappling mentally with deaths in my own family and the complex, sometimes flawed personal relationships that greatly complicate our emotions when death comes around.

The story touches on a lot of interesting topics, some that might be familiar to those who have seen Yogi's previous work. The characters and script are nostalgic for an old Hawaii, one not littered with high rise hotels and apartment buildings, and one that is more green and untouched. Hawaiian nature is deeply linked to the characters and is a focal point visually, aurally, and symbolically. The complicated issue of Hawaiian statehood also creates a layered backdrop to the story that unfolds in the past.

The performances by the actors and cultivated by Yogi are impressive. Constance Wu is probably the draw here, but this is not your typical Wu project. In fact, I was most appreciative of the subtle acting of relative newcomer Steve Iwamoto in the lead role, whose tanned and weathered face expressed so much. I was also impressed by Tim Chiou who played "Adult Masao" during some of the most difficult times for his character.

Regarding the film's style, I Was a Simple Man would be categorized in the genre of Slow Cinema and is rewarding to those with some patience. Perhaps this pacing will not be for everyone, but I found that it created a meditative and thoughtful tone that felt intentionally and deeply in tune with the Hawaiian environment where "time moves differently," which is also a reference to the film's fluid chronology. Though some of the boldest choices come later in the film, most of which I'll refrain from spoiling, I found the film to be quite dynamic as it builds towards its conclusion. The film's cinematography is quite gorgeous, showcasing a less familiar side of Hawaii, and featuring frames reminiscent of Ozu. The sound design is incredible, providing the Hawaiian environment life and vibrancy through powerful crescendos and hard cuts. When combined with the haunting score, I found myself quite moved or even rattled emotionally as the drama unfolded. Overall the film is quite the unique and profound sensory experience.

Ultimately, I Was a Simple Man was the perfect antidote to so much binging of generic Netflix series that I think we all are having to resort to these days. I was deeply affected by the film and I'm still thinking about it days later. If you're looking to watch something refreshing, different, and thoughtful, then I would highly recommend checking out I Was a Simple Man. I think it will go down as one of my favorites of the year.

Reviewed by a24wang 6 / 10

Slow, sometimes indecisive meditation on life

About 30 minutes into this film, there is a quick, almost fleeting shot of a rotten fruit falling from a tree at nighttime, paired with a shot of the fragile main character as he lies on his deathbed. A little while earlier, we see him attentively picking fresh fruit from the same tree, the sun blazing overhead. It might just be a small visual detail, but this contrast stood out most to me amid all the frames director Christopher Makoto Yogi interweaves in this film.

I Was a Simple Man is an almost mystical story of an elderly man, Masao, nearing the end of his life. Over the course of the movie, we explore the circumstances that shaped him into the solitary man he eventually becomes through revisiting shattering experiences, and happy memories-all while life is slowly slipping out of his worn out body. Yogi gives these experiences time and space to unfold, never once rushing the reflective nature of the film; instead, he lets the film slowly lure us in by merging different timelines and points of view. This is a movie that doesn't need many words to "talk", it's a movie that thoughtfully conveys its message through pictures, like fruit falling from a tree.

The first two acts are filled with color and stunning Hawaiian scenery, accompanied by the tranquil sound of waves breaking softly on the shore. As the film goes on, however, some of its initial heart and care unfortunately get lost along the way, in my view. Although the initial premise-centered around an experience we will all inevitably go through-feels universal, the movie isn't fully able to take us on the same journey as its protagonist, subsequently reducing the film's emotional impact to a minimum, despite its visibly heartfelt direction and performances. Since most of the story is told through flashbacks, there is almost no character development otherwise crucial to the emotional tone of a dramatic film like this one.

As a result, the overall tone and atmosphere of I Was a Simple Man feels indecisive; it's as if the film and its message got lost somewhere in the cuts between present and past, reality and fantasy. Both the flashbacks and the present timeline work well on their own, with solid cinematography and strong narratives; put together, however, they feel rather dissonant than harmonious-like melodies each beautiful by themselves, but played together, they become a discordant sea of notes without a clear phrase or harmony.

A contemplative movie exploring the end of a man's time spent on earth, I Was a Simple Man seeks to convey the feeling of being in the presence of someone who is passing away-Yogi's main inspiration behind this film, as he mentioned during the Q&A following the screening. While this movie succeeds at painting a pensive portrait of a man's life, it unfortunately doesn't succeed as much at interweaving the story of his life with the passing of his life. Nonetheless, in the end, I Was a Simple Man is perhaps a mindful reminder that our lives are to be lived, and lived fully, before we depart this planet.

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