The Postmodern Life of My Aunt
AKA: The Post Modern Life of My Aunt
Year of release: 2006
Director: Ann Hui
Action director: Guo Jian-Quan
Producer: Yuan Mei
Writer: Li Qiang
Cinematography: Kwan Pun-Leung, Nelson Yu
Editors: Liao Ching-Song, Yang Hong-Yu
Music: Hisaishi Jo
Stars: Siqin Gaowa, Chow Yun-Fat, Vicky Zhao, Lisa Lu, Shi Ke, Guan Wen-Shuo, Wang Zi-Wen
Not rated; contains IIA-level language
DVD available for purchase at www.sensasian.com
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Ann Hui's The Postmodern Life of My Aunt is a bittersweet look at growing old in Shanghai. The titular character, Ye (Siqin Gaowa), is a divorcee living by herself, with her only companion being Shui (Lisa Lu), a gossipy neighbor that she really doesn't like, but keeps a relationship with in order to save face. So when Ye's sister asks her to take care of her troubled nephew, Kuan (Guan Wen-Shou), Ye readily accepts.
Ye tries to make Kuan comfortable, but he soon runs away, and then goes so far as to hatch a kidnapping scheme. Distraught, Ye sends Kuan back to his mom, and, in her vulnerable state, is made into a mark by several con people, most notably the suave Pan (Chow Yun-Fat). After she is bled dry both financially and mentally by the con artists, Ye soon finds herself in the care of her daughter, Liu (Vicky Zhao), but their long-ongoing rocky relationship doesn't make an easy time of things.
The Postmodern Life of My Aunt is a bit of a strange picture. The above plot synopsis would lead you to think that this is a very depressing movie, and at many points it is. But there is also a extremely cheerful energy running throughout the film, brought to life mostly via Siqin Gaowa and Chow Yun-Fat's wonderful performances. Usually, when movies try to mix comedy and tragedy, the results are like the proverbial oil and water and come off as overwrought twaddle, but Ann Hui's smart direction lets both of the worlds co-exist off of each other in a solidly made symbiotic mix.
If there is fault to be leveled at The Postmodern Life of My Aunt, it would be the utter lack of any resolution by the end of the film. Of course, Hong Kong and Chinese movies are well-known for often not tying up everything and presenting an ending wrapped in a pretty package. But it did come off as more than a bit disappointing here, since the characters were so interesting -- it seemed a shame to leave the audience hanging. True, that sort of "lost" feeling was probably one of Hui's intents, and the ending (or lack thereof) doesn't ruin the film, but it would have been nice to see what eventually happened to Ye and her family.