Review: Same Old

Written and directed by Lloyd Lee Choi, a Chinese delivery driver in New York City discovers his e-bike has been stolen and must come to terms with the fragility of the life he’s built in America. Starring: Limin Wang, Mingjie Li and Lei Han.

It seems to be the repeating pattern that the more accessible things become, the less patient or polite that people become. Closing themselves off to the idea that the person delivering their food or packages is an actual human being who’s just trying to get through the workday, the same as anyone else. Wherein comes Lu (Limin Wang), working a thankless job for little pay but plenty of hours and exhaustion. It strikes a similar chord to Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You, but with a less heavy, punishing tone, instead bringing through a slowly growing sadness and desperation. Instead of just the daily struggle, it captures the coldness of people today and how uncaring they can be. As well as the impact that has on Lu, changing his nature as he’s forced to adapt to the unrelenting challenges.

Lloyd Lee Choi’s direction has a classic New York City feel, the style is very much on the streets and it absolutely makes the most of that night-time setting adding a richness to the colours. It uses the darkness to its advantage to blend with the tone and themes of the story. It feels stylish but at the same time it feels unfiltered and real. It grasps onto the building stress and desperation but it never becomes overwhelming, it more so reflects how it can be typically pushed beneath the surface to be able to just move forward. In that sense it’s a good example of how this sort of work impacts mental health, with people often keeping it to themselves and not sharing their strife with the people close to them.

There’s a great score and use of music throughout which definitely push that modern feel, nicely capturing today’s society and giving the film a touch more personality and variety. Part of the reason it walks a less heavy or gloomy line is Limin Wang’s performance. While you can feel how Lu is weighed down by the constant obstacles in his path, he never feels as though he’ll let it beat him. There’s a resilience and resourcefulness, making him cross some lines he may not want to, but he’ll do what it takes to survive. Wang allows the audience to get to know Lu through the way he reacts to each budding situation, each rebuff or unappreciative comment. It’s a strong portrayal that says a lot in between the lines.

Same Old is an insightful reminder of how uncaring and ungrateful modern society can be, too often forgetting the time and effort that goes into the things that arrive upon their doorstep. Lloyd Lee Choi’s writing captures the ever growing sadness and desperation, often hidden from loved ones to spare them the stress, only to cause more. While his direction capitalises on the feel of the city, both visually and emotionally. It doesn’t try to glamorise anything but it’s also not trying too hard to punch you in the gut with the story’s struggle, creating a great balance, led with an understated but affecting portrayal from Limin Wang.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

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