The refreshing treatment of same-sex romance in ‘Monsoon’

Henry Golding (right) and Parker Sawyers as lovers Kit and Lewis who meet in Saigon. Press photo

By Tricia J. Capistrano

There is same-sex foreplay in the movie, Monsoon. Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians plays Kit, a gay Vietnamese British man, who returns to Vietnam 30 years after he and his family members left in the 70s when the North Vietnamese won the war.

Kit meets Lewis (Parker Sawyers, Southside with You), an African American man in Saigon. The movie is a liberal’s ideal. Kit and Lewis’s relationship and Lewis’s race is incidental to the story. They connect just like heterosexuals. 

Even after this year’s racial awakening, I find that the representation of people of color and LGBTQ in the US media is limited. The sweet but unremarkable development of Kit and Lewis’s relationship is refreshing.

Monsoon is based on the experience of writer-director Hong Khaou whose parents are Cambodian. His parents moved from Cambodia to Vietnam to escape the terror of Pol Pot’s regime. His family later migrated to the UK. 

When the movie opens, Benjamin Kracun’s cinematography immediately situates us in buzzing, humid Saigon–it’s a bit like Manila but not Manila–and then later in less restless Hanoi’s quiet beauty.

As Kit visits an old friend and looks up the places he used to go to as a child, fellow immigrants like us will recognize Kit’s bewilderment at the change of his former home and compare the choices of their parents. Filipino viewers will contemplate the scenery, our politics, and colonial histories–China and France for Vietnam and Spain and the US for the Philippines—and the current economic footing of the two countries.

Incidentally, 1986 was also a big year for Vietnam. While we were having our peaceful revolution against Marcos, in Vietnam it was the year of Đổi Mới, “Renovation.” In 1986, the Vietnamese Communist Party initiated economic and political reforms to create a “socialist-oriented market economy.” Vietnam is now one of the largest producers of oil in Southeast Asia, and is one of the largest producers of rice, cashew nuts, and coffee in the world.

The country’s background sounds play a prominent part in the movie. Hong Khaou’s creation reminds me of fellow British writer Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, Never Let Me Go and Remains of The Day. Multitudes are said in the silences. 

Watching Monsoon is worthwhile especially during this time of reflection. For those of us who have moved away, we may need to brace ourselves for what we are about to fathom.

Monsoon is available to rent or buy on iTunes, Google Play and other streaming platforms.

Tricia J. Capistrano writes about books and movies by Southeast Asian creators. Her essays have appeared in The Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star and Newsweek. She is the author of “Dingding, Ningning, Singsing and Other Fun Tagalog Words.”  Her essay, “Inadequately Asian,” which appeared in this publication, was chosen as the Best Personal Essay by the Philippine American Press Club in 2017.

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(C) The FilAm 2020

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