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The Third Wife

Tran Nguyen | Posted on June 04, 2019

The awakening of a critical Vietnamese female voice

With the rise of feminism movements like the #MeToo movement, the launch of the film “The Third Wife,” by the director Ash Mayfair, is one of the first representations of Vietnamese women in the strong feminism wave. Despite the movie’s controversy with the graphic scene involving a young actress, the movie created a huge impact due to how it uses a traditional story to reflect contemporary society.

The movie starts with a child marriage between the protagonist, May, and a wealthy old landlord. Throughout the film, it depicts how May, a 14-year-old child, has to force herself to play a woman’s role in the family. The movie concentrated on her conflict between pushing herself to fit with society’s expectation of having a son and being a normal child. Also, the movie takes place in the late 19th century in Vietnam when such circumstances were considered a normal story.

In the film, the sexist statement that a woman is not good enough if she doesn’t have a son reflects both the sad, brutal reality of that period of time as well as this contemporary society. The obsession of having a son rather than a daughter complies to the rigid patriarchal society where the woman’s role is neglected and dehumanized by only serving as a baby-making machine. The contrast of such horrifying content portrayed in a very romantic style of filming conveys a sense of normalization in the film.

The restricted role of women and the affair that happens in the film represents the cage that society puts women in. Their lack of freedom in love and denial of human rights is portrayed in a very familiar tale where “a child must marry the man/woman the parents have selected for him/her.” I like how unbiased and neutral the director was for this matter. In the film, the audience can see how this statement applies to everyone, not only the women (but I won’t spoil the film so you have to watch it yourself).

The film currently is still showing at Gene Siskel Film Center so I highly recommend you watch it.

Instagram: @tracyng.official

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