“Time moves differently here.”
Set on the North Short of Oahu, Hawaii, I Was a Simple Man tells the story of Masao, an elderly man who’s life is nearing its end. As his health continues to decline, Masao reflects on the moments of his life that have shaped him, both positively and negatively. While he looks back on his life, past and present begin to collide and the ghosts of his life haunt his memories, offering him a chance to mourn and make peace with his pain.
Directed by Christopher Makoto Yoki, I Was a Simple Man is a beautifully reflective piece that speaks to the summation of a life. With three generations of life depicted onscreen (at times, simultaneously), Simple Man is a testament to the moments we cherish and regret as the end of life approaches. Although he says little (if anything) throughout the film, Steve Iwamoto’s performance as Masao carries the emotional weight of a man who is both grateful for the people in his life and remorseful for the damage that he has caused along the way. Shattered by his own losses, Masao’s life is filled with regrets, even though he has also found great love as well.
At the same time, the brokenness of his life also affects the reactions of his family to his decreasing health. While her history with her father remains conflicted, so too does his daughter do what she can to stand by. At the same time, with his grandson, his understanding of his grandparent is lacking experience and thus feels somewhat disconnected. While Masao’s life may be ending, their lives endure and the echoes of his story have left marks on them as well as they move forward.
In this way, I Was a Simple Man serves as a reminder of the impact that one’s life can have throughout the echoes of time. Quiet and powerful, Masao’s story speaks to the fact that, while the events of our lives may shape us, so too do they shape those around us as well.
I Was a Simple Man is now playing at Reel Asian Film Fest ‘21.