The Third Wife
Gateway | Dragons & Tigers
Vietnam in the 19th century: 14-year-old May (Trần Nữ Yên Khê) is married off to a wealthy landowner (Lê Vũ Long). Not surprisingly, the beginning of the marriage is frightening, from the consummation to the imposition of strict rules and customs. Eventually, May settles in, and the sadness of her acquiescence is palpable. But there’s much worse to come…
With its rich colours and immaculate production design, this film recalls classics like Raise the Red Lantern, but it has a melancholy beauty all its own. Writer-director Ash Mayfair, making her feature debut, shows a natural flair for drama—not to mention décor, design and visual detail. This is a delicate, tactful film, but its dark elements register no less powerfully for that; Mayfair may have a light touch, but she knows her target well, and she hits it bang-on. The oppressive sexism that May and her fellow wives suffer lives on today, in our own backyards as well as places we may think of as culturally remote. The filmmaker is addressing a perennial subject, but she makes it her own as only a true artist can.
NETPAC Award, TIFF 18; TVE - Another Look Award, San Sebastián 18