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  • Close-up on the actor Nguyen Phuong Tra My's face.


HELD OVER! Must End Thursday, June 6

2:30 & 9:10 ONLY


Born and raised in Vietnam, Ash Mayfair has drawn upon her familial history (both grandmother and great-grandmother were in arranged marriages at a young age) to create the fictitious 19th century drama of 14-year-old May, who becomes the third wife of an older man. With a largely female cast and crew, THE THIRD WIFE portrays the strictures of patriarchy, the rules by which a woman can gain some degree of prestige and power (as the mother of a son), and the consequences any deviance will engender. But most of all, this is a story of emotional bonding among three generations of women, in a setting that is both exquisitely beautiful and painfully repressive. As with the lives of Chinese concubines in RAISE THE RED LANTERN, the ostensible comfort and elegance of this world of women is both richly seductive and fearfully poisonous.



“Supremely atmospheric. Sensuously elegant drama. (A) refined critique of patriarchal culture. Making exquisite use of natural light… (the graceful score adds to the ambience with its delicate strings and, in the final stretch, foreboding piano notes. The visuals are at their most potent, however, when enhanced by Edouard Morin’s layered sound design. A finely detailed and quietly devastating tapestry, where rare moments of genuine intimacy are intensely experienced. Achieves a powerful universal resonance.”
– John Berra, Screen International

“Gorgeously intimate, evocative, and melancholy. Though it’s almost painterly, in the pellucid watercolor palette of DP Chananun Chotrungroj’s glistening bamboo-green, aloe-scented imagery, and authentic to its period setting down to the quietest silken detail, by focusing with unwavering empathy on the interior life of teenage bride May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My), the remarkable THE THIRD WIFE feels newborn and ineffably modern. This is the rare debut that derives its freshness not from inexperience but from a balance between compassion and restraint that most filmmakers take decades to achieve. A film so sensuous we can lose ourselves in it, but so vividly real we might also be able to find ourselves there.”
– Jessica Kiang, Variety

“A world rendered with pathos and somewhat prurient fascination in Ash Mayfair’s finespun debut feature. The setting is 19th-century Vietnam...rendered with delicate precision… The sensuality that Mayfair and Chananun Chotrungroj, the director of photography, create around May is seductive, and also unnerving.”
– A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“Ash Mayfair’s voluptuous directorial debut recalls… Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s RAISE THE RED LANTERN (1993). But Mayfair’s luxuriant first feature, set in the countryside of 19th-century Vietnam, treads territory that few male visions of the struggle against patriarchy have covered. Ton That An’s delicate string score resonates throughout… Perhaps most striking about THE THIRD WIFE is Mayfair’s measured approach, rare for a debut and young filmmaker.”
– Beatrice Loayza, The A.V. Club

Film Forum