Monsoon (2019 film)
|Directed by||Hong Khaou|
|Written by||Hong Khaou|
|Produced by||Tracy O'Riordan|
|Edited by||Mark Towns|
|Music by||John Cummings|
|Distributed by||Peccadillo Pictures|
Kit (Henry Golding), a young British Vietnamese man, returns to his birth country for the first time in over 30 years. He was just six years old when he and his family escaped Saigon as 'boat refugees' after the Vietnam War. No longer familiar with this country and unable to speak his native language, Kit embarks on a personal journey from Saigon to Hanoi in search of a place to scatter his parents’ ashes. Along the way he reconnects with his cousin and childhood friend Lee (David Tran) and falls for Lewis (Parker Sawyers), an American whose father had fought in the war.
During his travels, Kit finally starts to connect to the memories of his parents and his own roots.
- Henry Golding as Kit
- Parker Sawyers as Lewis
- David Tran as Lee
- Molly Harris as Linh
- Lâm Vissay as Henry
In March 2018, it was announced Henry Golding had joined the cast of the film, with Hong Khaou directing from a screenplay he wrote. Tracy O'Riordan would serve as a producer on the film, with BBC Films and British Film Institute producing.
When director Hong Khaou's Lilting played at Sundance Film Festival, the prestigious Sundance Screenwriter's Lab suggested Khaou pitch them an idea for his next project. In the four years that followed, with the support of the BFI and BBC Films, the film underwent “various incarnations,” Khaou says. The project started out as a two hander between Kit and the character who ended up as Lewis, an African American, in the finished film, but started out as Hank, a Caucasian American. “Along the way, through the various notes that came from the execs and financiers, it was felt that the Hank character’s voice – the dominant white American, in terms of the subtext of the war – had been heard before,” Khaou says.
There are similarities between Khaou's experience and Kit's – like Kit's family, Khaou's parents fled South-East Asia when he was young – in their case from Cambodia – and he too grew up in Britain, but he wanted to distance himself a little from the film. “I didn’t want to make it so much about me, although I guess it is inevitable it always comes out,” he says. “I wanted to hide behind this Vietnamese character, so to speak, and talk about these feeling and issues I’ve always had about having to flee a war-torn country… and the struggle for a sense of cultural identity,” Khaou says.
While Kit's initial focus is on his search for traces of his family's past in Vietnam – thanks to the influence of Lewis and Linh – he becomes immersed in the emerging modern, cosmopolitan Vietnam, fighting to free itself from its past. This provides a backdrop to the film, one which has rarely been shown in Western cinema. “Vietnam is changing so quickly. It wants to be this exciting new capitalist country, and everything is possible there,” Khaou says. “I wanted for Kit to have this sense that when he arrives in Vietnam it is this foreign place, and he has to slowly forge a relationship with it.”
Monsoon had its world premiere at the 54th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in competition on 29 June 2019. In April 2020, Strand Releasing acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film. It was released in the United Kingdom on 25 September 2020, and in the United States on 13 November 2020.
Monsoon has received very positive reviews from critics out of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 87% of 61 film critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Monsoon sees writer-director Hong Khaou offering a thoughtful look at the emigrant experience, brought beautifully to life by Henry Golding's stellar performance."
Demetrios Matheou, in his review for Screen Daily, said that "it’s a touching, thoughtful and gorgeously shot piece of work, which both examines its protagonist’s experience of displacement and tenderly evokes a country moving energetically forwards while some are still tied painfully to the past." Jessica Kiang, in her review for Variety, called it "A graceful and truthfully irresolute investigation into the strange, often poignantly unreciprocated relationship that many first- and second-generation emigrants have with the far-off foreign country of the past". Giving the film a 'B−' score, Gregory Ellwood writing for The Playlist said "for a naturalistically told story about a man finding his place in the world, slightly more emotion wouldn’t have necessarily been a bad thing". Boyd van Hoeij of The Hollywood Reporter praised the film, calling it "an intimate drama of surprising depth". At Film London's new-look London Screenings, which took place at Picturehouse Central in London's West End from June 24–27, Monsoon was described by one distributor in London as “absolutely charming”.
Monsoon was nominated for the 2021 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film (Limited Release).
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- Kiang, Jessica (30 June 2019). "Karlovy Vary Film Review: Monsoon". Variety. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- Ellwood, Gregory (30 June 2019). "Henry Golding Finds Himself A Stranger In A Modern Vietnam In Monsoon [Review]". The Playlist. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
- van Hoeij, Boyd (2 July 2019). "Monsoon: Film Review Karlovy Vary 2019". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
- Macnab, Geoffrey (2 July 2019). "International attendees give their verdict on London Screenings 2019". Screen Daily. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
- Ramos, Dino-Ray (28 January 2021). "GLAAD Unveils Nominees For 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards; Deadline's New Hollywood Podcast Honored With Special Recognition Award". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on 28 January 2021. Retrieved 2 February 2021.