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The Third Wife (2018) dir: Ash Mayfair Blu Ray (Eureka!)

Arranged marriage in Vietnam

Nguyen Phuong Tra My plays May, a 14-year-old girl living in rural Vietnam during the 19th century. She is forced into becoming the third wife of the wealthy Hung (Long Le Vu). She forms a friendship with his other two wives: Ha (Tran Nu Yên-Khê) and Xuan (Mai Thu Huong Maya). When she falls pregnant, she wishes that her baby will be born male, thus ensuring that he becomes a rightful heir and doesn’t suffer the same fate as her. The three women, along with their offspring, perform a religious ceremony in a desperate attempt to see he wish granted.

Watch a trailer:

A beautiful-looking but harrowing tale

The Third Wife is one undeniably visually beautiful film, shot in a softly sensual haze and pastel colour palette by Chananun Chotrungroj. Likewise, An Ton That’s gentle folk score adds to the mood. However, these artful graces disguise a devastating tale of female oppression. The theme of forced child marriage is a harrowing and uncomfortable one at the best of times and, despite the overwhelmingly tactful and restrained depiction here (making heavy use of visual metaphors), this is a film that (intentionally) leaves scars after viewing.

The Third Wife (2018)

Surprisingly little focus is placed on the male characters here, even by way of fleshing them out as antagonists. For the most part, they remain soft-spoken background figures. Yes, there’s one whipping scene but, on the whole, this isn’t some brutal 10 Years a Slave style diatribe that turns them into unremitting demons. Instead, they are presented more as mere participants in an appalling tradition than as appalling figures themselves - one of them even inspiring some sympathy later on in the story. It’s the central trio of women and their ever-shifting relationships that form the locus of the drama. While these three are clearly living a severely curtailed life, they attempt to derive what little joy (sensual or otherwise) that they can from it.

The Third Wife is laden with an innate melancholy sadness and tragic inevitability that sticks uncomfortably in the mind after viewing.

Runtime: 93 mins

Dir: Ash Mayfair

Script: Ash Mayfair

Starring: Long Le Vu, Mai Thu Huong Maya, Nguyen Phuong Tra My, Tran Nu Yên-Khê, Nhu Quynh Nguyen

Blu Ray Audio-Visual

The florid, pastel-hued imagery looks stunning in the HD format here. Contrast and detail levels hold up excellently throughout, rendering even the darkest of scenes easy on the eye.

Extras

Very little in the way of extras here bar a trailer plus a booklet featuring an essay by David West of NEO Magazine.

Overall:

The Third Wife is a tough but informative watch. Well worth a look for any fan of world cinema.

Movie: ☆☆☆1/2

Video: ☆☆☆☆☆

Audio: ☆☆☆☆

Extras: ☆1/2

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