October 9, 2018

VIFF 2018 | Marrying Off 'The Third Wife'

Nguyễn Phương Trà My Ash Mayfair Nguyễn Phương Anh | The Third Wife | VIFF 2018

VIFF 2018—First-time filmmaker Nguyễn Phương Anh (aka Ash Mayfair) tells the historical drama of a fourteen-year-old child bride of a wealthy landowner in nineteenth-century rural Vietnam. The Third Wife sorrowfully transports us to the repressive period full of sensuous colours to express a pervasive feeling of melancholy.

As May, actress Nguyễn Phương Trà My fully expresses her naïve character as she slowly understands her role that of human property essentially relegated to the status of a babymaker while newly married to a much older husband (Lê Vũ Long). The main plot revolves around May learning to be a new wife as a child herself and trying to curry favour by bearing a son.

Evoking similar themes from another Southeast Asian historical drama about sister wives Raise the Red Lantern, the film presents a richness to its setting with some immaculate production design as it recalls its own sense of oppressive sexism.

The Third Wife is sumptuous in its period touches detailing the rural, pre-colonial setting. Full of poetic flourishes, the intimate film paints a fluid picture of female repression at the time. It's a largely graceful, empathetic story that mirrors the emotional growth of its young protagonist thrust into adulthood as barely a teen.

The Third Wife screened at the 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Gateway and Dragons & Tigers streams.

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