'Monsoon' Review: Henry Golding Grapples with Lost Identity in Hong Khaou's Mournful Drama



by The Film Stage

Khaou previous work Lilting is a character study about a gay man trying to connect with the Chinese mother of his dead partner in order to cope with his grief. Lilting attempted to blend the mutual cultural understanding with a story of untimely loss and living as a queer person in a traditionally heteronormative environment.

Monsoon has similar ambitions but shifts the focus away from foreigners trying to understand completely different cultures to their own to a man trying to reclaim his own after so many years spent assimilating into another. The story centers on Kit (Henry Golding), a man who returns to Vietnam after more than two decades spent in England to find a place to scatter his parents' ashes. There are moments of isolation, the empty spaces inside his hotel room, the one-sided Skype calls where the pauses between words are seismically silent, but Khaou is more interested in quietness than the film may initially lead one to believe.

While the early stages of the text are focused on the overwhelming sides of being in a different environment, eventually Monsoon finds a rhythm lingering with the architecture and creating an aura of peacefulness. The sequences between Kit and his new lover, another English-speaking person of color drawn to the calming presence of this city, are luxurious in how they construct intimacy.

Moments between them standing around in an apartment or walking to a rooftop together have such quiet weight and love, one truly gets a sense that these men are forming an attachment together that greater than words can convey. By the halfway point, conflict is faded and one is left with a grieving man finding some consolation in making tea and being in spaces he thought he would never see again.

Published on December 3, 2019
  • monsoon
  • grief
  • khaou
  • man
  • kit
  • film
  • december
  • spaces
  • focus
  • parents

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