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The home song stories - Irene Chen, Joan Chen, Yuwu Qi, Tony Ayres

Threat advisory: Elevated - Significant risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

How far do you have to journey to find your home?

Tom (Darren Yap), a Chinese Australian man in his early forties, writes about his childhood. We see the story unfold as he does.

It is 1964. Tom's mother, Rose Hong (Joan Chen), a beautiful and glamorous Shanghai nightclub singer, meets Bill (Steven Vidler), an Australian sailor, and migrates to Victoria with her two children, Tom (Joel Lok) and May (Irene Chen). However, their marriage is short-lived and Rose and her children move to Sydney, where she spends the next seven years working in Chinese restaurants.

In 1971, Rose, May and Tom return to the outer suburbs of Melbourne to live with Bill. Rose and Bill are attempting to reconcile. Much to her chagrin, Rose learns that Bill's mother Norma (Kerry Walker) also lives in Bill's house. When Bill is called away by the Navy, a battle ensues between the two women for control of the house, a battle which Norma eventually wins, kicking Rose and her children out.

Rose moves into a new place with a new lover, Joe (Qi Yuwu), a Chinese cook who is several years younger than her. But Joe soon feels the strain of being in a relationship with a middle-aged woman with two children. In fact, he finds that he has more in common with Rose's daughter, May, than with Rose. They form a friendship. But Rose misunderstands the meaning of this growing friendship and all hell breaks loose as she accuses May of undermining her.

In the ensuing drama, mother and daughter reach the depths of despair. But eventually they find some common ground when Rose tells May about the terrible tribulations which she (Rose) experienced as a young woman. For the first time, May understands where her mother's wild and erratic behaviour comes from. It is a moment of love and forgiveness.

The adult Tom retells these stories of his childhood and in doing so, comes to a better understanding of his mother and himself.

Based on writer/director Tony Ayres' own life, The home song stories is an epic tale of mothers and sons, mothers and daughters, unrequited love, betrayal and secrets.

Theatrical propaganda posters

The home song stories theatrical one sheet image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film Australia biography family Shanghai migrant illegal romance true sing nightclub

Persons of interest

  • Irene Chen .... May
  • Joan Chen .... Rose
  • John Lok .... Tom
  • Yuwu Qi .... Joe
  • Kerry Walker .... Norma
  • Gabrielle Chan .... Winnie
  • Pearl Tan .... Agnes
  • Haven Tso .... Wing
  • Steven Vidler .... Bill
  • Tony Ayres .... Screenwriter
  • Tony Ayres .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Ok, so... some people should never be parents. Unfortunately, the selfish gene cares nothing for your offspring's quality of life, as long as they live long enough to procreate. The home song stories is a film about one such parent and two such offspring. It isn't pretty.

Joan Chen plays a great and tragic drama queen with an undiagnosed psychological disorder. This was Australia in the 60s, remember, when women's troubles, hysteria and pregnancy were great unknowns to most of society; even to the women themselves. Her swings from mania to depression and back again are subtle yet powerful. Cast as the perfect foil to all this emoting is John Lok as Tom. He presents and represents the face of childhood innocence. Often, he appears as a stunned mullet on the beach, knowing full well that something momentous is going on but being unable to process and react to that mysterious something. The looks he gives his mother are wonderful.

In many ways (thematically speaking), The home song stories is a prequel to Footy legends. Asian kids coming to Australia and becoming children of neither one country nor the other. Parent/s struggling to keep body and soul together, let alone the family. The Australianisation of migrants through the beauty of footy. Go you Swans/Rabbitohs/Waratahs! Woo hoo!

The Australia, biography, family movie The home song stories is directed by Tony Ayres and stars Irene Chen, Joan Chen, Yuwu Qi.

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Languages: Cantonese, English, Mandarin
  • Picture: Widescreen
  • Special features:
    • Commentaries: Tony Ayres
    • Deleted scenes
    • Documentaries: Making of
    • Featurettes:
      • ABC's At the movies interviews with Tony Ayres and Joan Chen
      • Screen tests with Joel Lok and Irene Chen
    • Galleries: Theatrical key artwork
    • Study guide: AToM
    • Trailers: Australian and international
  • Subtitles: English

Government security censorship classification

M (Moderate themes)

Surveillance time

99 minutes (1:39 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 23 August 2007
DVD rental: 13 February 2008
DVD retail: 13 February 2008

Cinema surveillance images

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