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Home Song Stories

Year: 2007
Production Co: Big & Little Films
Director: Tony Ayers
Writer: Tony Ayers
Cast: Joan Chen
There are few people more reviled than those who are born privileged, grow up attractive, enjoy riches beyond measure or have a generally great life. Just look at Tom Cruise and Paris Hilton.

There's a peculiar hallmark of our cultural consciousness that we like people to have suffered. We don't like anybody to do well in life if we don't believe they deserve it or have paid some sort of penance for it. If we see someone drive up in a beautiful car or living in a beautiful house we like to think they've endured suffering or deprivation, the life they now enjoy a reward for it. If not, we instinctively hope they'll take a fall.

As such, films about adversity are much more acceptable to us than those about happy people doing nice things. Yes, conflict is the basis for all drama, but there's almost a dramatic subgenre of films depicting people living through the worst possible abuse or circumstances that attract critical kudos almost by default.

Such a film is Home Song Stories, the autobiographical movie from writer/director Tony Ayers, who came to Australia in the last 60s from Hong Kong with his sister and nightclub singer mother, spending the next ten years moving from one surrogate father to another while his well meaning but terminally conceited and bitter mother gradually unravelled.

Home Song Stories is a thoroughly miserable movie. Don't see it unless you're in the absolute best of moods. As a child, Ayers and his older sister endured everything from racism to (as the film depicts) a beating bordering on child abuse, his mother doing her best to bring her children up but too bitter about her fading glory and looks and too haunted that she's made all the wrong decisions (she has) too hold it together for them.

The behaviour of his mother ranged between appalling and nonsensical, and even though Ayers believes from his own experience that kids are stronger than we give them credit for ('The life you have it is the life you know'), his was a childhood of hardship and suffering the likes of which makes critically lauded movies. Whether that's one you want to watch (or endure) is up to you...

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