‘Monsoon’ review: soul-searching in Saigon with Henry Golding

Hong Khaou's quietly romantic portrait of a young man torn between two cultures

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    Henry Golding has been slowly edging his way into the spotlight for some time now – ever since his debut in 2018 surprise hit Crazy Rich Asians. Known for playing charming, attractive straight guys, the softly-spoken Brit is also reportedly in the running to play James Bond. His new film, Hong Khaou’s Monsoon – a gorgeous, poetic portrait of a young man split between two cultures – shows a new side to Golding. It’s his most complex, emotionally intelligent performance to date.

    Golding plays Kit, a British-Vietnamese man returning to Vietnam for the first time in over 30 years to scatter his parents’ ashes. But his homecoming doesn’t go to plan – and he must decide who he wants to be while coming to terms with a life lived between two cultures.

    Similarly to Lulu Wang’s The Farewell and Shola Amoo’s The Last Tree, Monsoon is about young people rediscovering their identities by reconnecting with the places they were forced to leave behind. Awkwafina wrestles with her Chinese heritage in Wang’s feature, while Amoo focuses on a boy torn between rural Lincolnshire and his Nigerian roots. In Monsoon, Golding carries the weight of Kit’s alienation beautifully. Forced to leave Saigon as “boat refugees” during the Vietnam War, he is still processing that trauma – and Golding’s gentle, contemplative turn really brings across the character’s feeling that he is a tourist in his own home.

    Monsoon
    Henry Golding stars alongside Parker Sawyers in the new indie. Credit: Peccadillo Pictures

    The film is quietly romantic, too. Kit meets Lewis (Parker Sawyers) on a dating app, and the two men eventually fall in love, despite their seemingly opposed backstories (Lewis’ American father fought in the very same war that devastated Kit’s family). Monsoon allows Golding to explore this contradiction gradually, rather than impulsively responding to the revelation in one mid-film twist. Their relationship is delicate, but never overpowering. Monsoon never weaponises or trivialises Kit’s sexuality – it’s simply one of the many facets of his personality.

    This isn’t a particularly original story, granted, but it’s a brand new look at Golding: mature, vulnerable and focused. Bond can wait – this actor has a lot more soul-searching to do first.

    Details

    • Director: Hong Khaou
    • Starring: Henry Golding, Parker Sawyers, David Tran
    • Release date: September 25 (Cinemas and digital)
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