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‘Monsoon’ Review: Hazy Memories of Home

A moving tale, Monsoon follows Kit (Henry Golding) as he returns home to Saigon, Vietnam. After his family fled to England after the Vietnam war when he was six, Kit hasn’t looked back. However, after the loss of both of his parents, Kit heads back to Saigon thirty years later not only to scatter their ashes, but also to begin a journey of self-discovery.

Throughout the film, Kit verbalizes how he barely remembers his homeland. His Vietnamese isn’t as strong as it used to be, as he shifted towards an English lifestyle. After the war, Saigon hoped to distance itself from the past. It wants to move on and provide a completely different experience for residents and tourists. More specifically, Saigon wants to be unrecognizable, which it has achieved since Kit feels out of place, or as he declared, a tourist.

As he travels both Saigon and Hanoi, Kit realizes he doesn’t know much about his birth country. He never asked his parents, and they forbid him from going back. He meets up with his second cousin Lee (David Tran), who recounts memories of their brief childhood together and allows Kit to piece together his history.

Kit (Golding) and Lewis (Sawyers) | Dat Vu/Strand Releasing

Kit isn’t the only one who feels as if they don’t belong in any country. Lewis (Parker Sawyers) is in Vietnam to oversee the production of his clothing company. The two meet presumably through a dating app and quickly form a romantic connection. As their relationship progresses from a casual fling, both confide in each other about how they were post-war babies, but the war effects impact them as well. Lewis is American and just so happens to be the son of a Vietnam veteran, a detail that influences their discussion about the war.

Another person Kit meets during his travels is Linh (Molly Harris). She gives art tours and shows Kit something incredibly special to his family. When Kit gets to Hanoi, he is still searching for somewhere momentous to scatter his parent’s ashes. While he meets with Linh, he learns how to prepare flowers for traditional lotus tea, a favorite drink of his parents. This scene reveals how along the way to laying his parents to rest, Kit begins to use this time to restore his Vietnamese roots and determine his purpose in the world.

The beauty of the film lies within the delicacy of the writer and director Hong Khaou as well as the cinematography of Benjamin Kracun. The movie heavily relies on the beautiful landscape and daily life of Vietnam. There was limited dialogue in the film as well, focusing instead on allowing viewers to absorb the natural city sounds of Saigon and Hanoi. Based on the scenery and noise alone, this story is extremely personal. The real and raw footage encapsulates the meaning of the film beautifully.

Henry Golding hit it pretty big after Crazy Rich Asians and Last Christmas, establishing himself as a leading man. Moreover, his portrayal as Kit presents yet another stellar performance. Golding takes the film and runs with it, pouring his all into affirming Kit’s emotional adventure. The most notable factor was that both Khaou and Golding didn’t prioritize Kit’s sexuality — Kit already knows who he is, so there was no need to point it out in this story.

Monsoon is a film full of diversity. Hong Khaou gives the spotlight to underrepresented groups in film, which is revolutionary. Golding is Malaysian-American; his character, Kit, is British-Vietnamese and apart of the LGBTQ+ community. Parker Sawyers is an African American actor who portrays Lewis, Kit’s love interest, and is also apart of the LGBTQ+ community. The supporting cast is all of Asian-decent, as well as the writer and director of the film.

Monsoon is currently streaming on Netflix and rated TV-MA.