Film Review: MONSOON (directed by Hong Khaou)

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by Tony Frankel on November 5, 2020

in Film


An affecting and sturdy Henry Golding (who made his feature debut with Crazy Rich Asians), plays Kit, who hasn’t been to Ho Chi Minh City since he was six, when he was taken to England with his family so they could escape the brutal Vietnam War. He has come to seek a meaningful place to strew his mother’s ashes, but clearly he is having an identity crisis — well, not crisis, his self-reflection seems almost like an afterthought in the purely introspective Monsoon, directed by Hong Khaou (Lilting), who, as a baby, also fled with his family to escape the Khmer Rouge regime. If anything, Kit — based on his self-acceptance as being gay — is having a culture crisis. And those he will meet on his trip also appear at a crossroads.

Kit’s odyssey of discovering himself through other people’s eyes is something we can all relate to, but there is nothing stormy about this film — no big revelations or monsoons of emotion. It’s quiet and reflective, so it’s mandatory that you watch this movie on its own terms. There’s also not much dialogue (in English and Vietnamese), so at first it felt like a meditative travelogue for the city. The excellent cinematography by Benjamin Kračun captures Miren Marañón Tejedor’s varied production design magnificently, from exotic to city nightlife, and the opening shot hovering over a traffic pattern at a busy intersection is jaw-dropping.

Kit has an assignation, set up online, with an African-American fashion designer Lewis (lovely and debonair Parker Sawyers), a product of his G.I. dad and a Vietnamese woman. It goes deeper than a one-night stand, so they head out to the city’s hot spots, where Kit begins to emerge from his passivity. We will also meet Linh (Molly Harris), a bright young Vietnamese student who will join Kit in the city of his and her parents (Hanoi), and Kit’s second cousin Lee (David Tran) who helps Kit piece together the experiences and places of their childhood. Films such as this, which engage us as they weave together a sense of time and place in an unhurried manner are rare. It’s worth mentioning that this film succeeds by not adding a layer of homosexuality as an issue; Kit and Lewis just happen to be gay. This assured second film from Khaou is most recommended.

photos by Dat Vu courtesy of Strand Releasing

Moonspun Films distributed by Strand Releasing
United Kingdom | drama | 85 Minutes | 2019
in English and Vietnamese with English Subtitles
opens November 13, 2020 on Laemmle At Home Platform
opens everywhere (theaters, VOD) on November 13th, 2020

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