The Third Wife
(Vietnam/2018—directed by Ash Mayfair)
In 19th century rural Vietnam, 14-year-old May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My) is given away in an arranged marriage as payment for her father’s debt, becoming the third wife of a wealthy landowner. May learns of the one way by which she can gain status in the marriage, but the strictures of patriarchy reveal the harsh consequences that any deviance from the rules of society will engender.
Born and raised in Vietnam and using a largely female cast and crew, writer-director Ash Mayfair has drawn upon her own familial history to create a tale of emotional bonding among three generations of women, in a setting both exquisitely beautiful and painfully repressive. As with the Chinese concubines in Raise the Red Lantern, the ostensible comforts bestowed upon this world of women are richly intoxicating yet fearfully poisonous. In Vietnamese with English subtitles. (96 min.)
“Gorgeously intimate. A film so sensuous we can lose ourselves in it, but so vividly real we might also be able to find ourselves here.” –Jessica Kiang, Variety
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