Fairlane is a devout Asian entertainment fan. On the side, she is a professional screenwriter and author.
When the first thing you hear about a movie is the sex scene between a child and an adult, it raises red flags. The Third Wife was banned in the very country where it was made because of a sensitive child between the child actress, Nguyen Phuong Tra My and a 46-year-old-actor Long Le Vu. My was 13 when the movie was shot.
The movie is about a young girl’s journey towards settling in her new life as the third wife of a rich landowner. Living her family behind, she needs to learn what it really takes to be a wife.
Audiences, reported Vietnam News, were shocked that the character is played by Nguyen Phuong Tra My, who was then only 13 years old. Vietnames criticized Ash Mayfair over her decision to use an actual child to play the role. The parents were not spared. Some claim that they traded the honor of the child and the family for money and fame. Both the director and the parents insisted that the child wanted to take the role and they did the scenes with great respect to the welfare of the child.
The movie touches on a subject that is not as common but still happens in some parts of Asia, children getting married off. Recently, Indonesia banned marriage of young children, an important development but there are still some Asian countries that allow underage marriage.
The Third Wife, however, dealt with this with great respect to the Vietnam’s culture because as hard as it may be hear, it is part of Vietnam’s history. It is the decision to respect their history that may have inspired how the story unfolded. It is filled with other social issues such as homosexuality and sexuality but there were no big dramatic confrontation between characters where someone gets slapped, dragged, beaten up or verbally attacked.
It unfolded the story of the different characters with an almost “newsie” kind of feel. There were no embellishments, just everyday life being told.
There’s a certain timidity in everything, from the movement of the camera to the way the characters speak to the voices of the actors. Everything is languidly graceful and perfectly in place. Everyone takes their time.
It echoes the expectations of society during that era.
Women are supposed to be graceful, men are supposed to be strong, and struggles didn’t exist. Rebellion has always been implemented through secret rendezvous, and unexpected decisions.
The sophistication, however, establishes the solemnity of life because even with a way of life long outdated, everyone treats everyone with respect and, even love. Even among the wives, although they share one man, they treat each other with great respect, consideration and love.
In fact, they bond to a point where everyone becomes a big family instead of being rivals.
Everything and everyone is treated with gentleness by the camera and the script. No one was projected to be evil, not even overbearing. They were portrayed as humans and it helps in garnering the audience’s respect even with such an acceptable situation.
Writing and Performance
The writing and performance are so perfectly in sync that it’s hard to determine where the writing ends and when the performance begins.
With each role, actors are known for putting their own treatment into the character but writers are also known for putting descriptions on actions to help actors act out their scenes.
Once you work on the industry long enough, you’ll be able to tell whether or not something is the actor’s interpretation or written in the script. It’s not easy but it’s possible.
Here, it’s almost impossible. Everything is together, like a perfect photograph where every square centimeter of the space has been perfecly designed.
My’s performance is impeccable. She had the right amount of innocence and, surprisingly, ambition that makes it convincing and almost justifiable for her to be doing everything she did. She also portrayed the unsettling fear that she tries so hard to cover with so much grace that it’s almost impossible for you to actually determine what it is in her eyes it until towards the end.
It is subdued. The colors are mellow, mild and soft which mirror the acting. Consistent with the grace of the voice of the actors, there was an abundance of soft fabrics, plants, sky and anything nature but just like the story, the horror of the scenes are expressed through barely visible clues or small splotches of blood and dirt.
It’s a demonstration on how thought out this film is. Everything is taken cared of, down to the last detail.
The Sensitive Scenes
If you don’t want to know about the sex scene and child birth scene, stop reading now.
The director was asked to recut the film for Vietnam if she wanted it shown in public cinemas. I was able to watch the uncut version.
Yes, there is a sex scene and two other sensitive scenes and they are sensual but not indecent but it will look like it is. There are a lot of filmmaking tricks that one can use to execute sensitive scenes without compromising anyone’s welfare. The mere fact that the scene ended up being sensual but clearly done, at least to filmmakers, with proper caution is a testament of just how good the director is in carrying out her vision.
The child actress herself testified that her mother was present in the filming of the sensitive scene and everyone took great care in ensuring her safety and rights especially his co star, Long Le Vu.
This is a subdued movie. The tremors and chaos will happen in you, as an audience, how you feel about the reality of what you are watching. There aren’t any confrontation or people shooting other people and other chaotic highlights. If you are looking for excitement and thrills to that level, this isn’t the movie for you but if you are here to experience a feast of the senses and ready to read subtle clues, this is the movie for you.